I don’t know one person who hasn’t heard the name Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate whose words touched the hearts of a nation, if not the world, at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Her indelible delivery, so poised and resonant, was made all the more impressive when you understand the speech impediment she overcame. This disability turned to ability through hours and hours of recitation, a willing of her tongue to do her heart’s bidding as she pronounced every word of “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the musical Hamilton, over and over and over again.
There is so much that can be taken from the phenomenon that has become this young woman. The power of her voice, her social activism, her faith, her race, her upbringing, her feminism – each facet worthy of words to guide us through these challenging times. But in this moment, it is the context in which her powerful inaugural poem was read that touches me most.
That even as we grieved, we grew,
That even as we hurt, we hoped,
That even as we tired, we tried.
These words spoke to my soul. At a time when our school community is once again ordered apart, when many are struggling with the impact of COVID and the sorrow it brings, when we yearn for routine, for predictability, for normalcy, for reassurance, these words acknowledge the struggle as they offer something more.
I know that hope is on the horizon. I know better days lie ahead. I know it’s always darkest before the dawn. But I also know how clichéd these words sound. We crave action instead of platitudes, progress in place of promises, certainty more than chance. We’re told the finish line is just ahead but our endurance is waning and others running alongside us flaunt the rules. We’re told to stay the course but not everyone complies. Individualism versus the collective good is on full display everywhere we turn. And so, we grieve, we hurt, we tire.
I believe that our Trafalgar community has fared better than many during the pandemic. It’s not merely our early commitment to being together in person five days a week, although that decision was pivotal to our feeling of connection. I think we are blessed with families, students, teachers, staff and alumna who understand what it means to be small but mighty. Resilience is the centre of who we are. That doesn’t mean each of us is strong all the time. Far from it. Our individual resolve waivers; we weave and we wobble, failing and falling but always lifted up by those around us. We reach out to one another with words of encouragement, with offers of help, with small acts of kindness, with humour and compassion. That is the strength of who we are – a group of individuals committed to the wellbeing of our children, our community, our future.
As we hold out for the hope that truly is on the horizon, for the better days that lie ahead, the dawn that will surely follow the darkness, let’s hang on. Hang on to our kindness, dig deep for remnants of patience and understanding, and above all, be brave.
To once more quote the remarkable Amanda Gorman:
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it,
If only we’re brave enough to be it.