Amanda Gorman electrified the world at the inauguration of Joe Biden, stealing the show with her performance of her poem The Hill We Climb, about the nation’s hopes for the future. The New Ism’s co-founders Mel and Alex discuss how we can give more young people like Amanda the chance to shine and make a difference.
Alexandra Matthews: We’re writing two days after President Biden’s inauguration. Obviously, the focus was on the new President and Kamela Harris, the new Vice President, but arguably the star of the show was Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate who performed her inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb. The global audience was blown away by her poem, which encapsulated the national mood, but also her vitality and presence. It felt like she represented the future; in fact, I think she has promised to run for president in 2036! What did you think of her?
Mel Young: Like you, I thought she was great. I liked her confidence, and it was a very uplifting poem which talked about the future. From a New Ism point of view, I reflected that she was standing out from the usual noise of macro global politics which these days are so divisive, angst-ridden and combative. As we have said before, we need a new system and we need younger people to articulate what that system could be. Whilst many people are pleased to see Biden as the new President, there were a significant number of people in the USA who did not. We need to move away from this old style of politics and I think Amanda captured something about what a future might look like.
AM: Yes, she certainly represents an exciting future. She’s young, she’s female, she’s not white, and she’s an activist: her work focuses on issues such as oppression, feminism, race, and marginalisation. It feels like many people want more of those attributes in politics and leadership.
If we want politics and indeed the global system to be fresher and more youthful – ‘more Amanda’ – then we need to find a way to bring ‘Amandas’ front and centre. A lot of young people are passionate about addressing the problems that the world faces, but they feel disempowered because the system doesn’t look like them. At The New Ism, we want to bring them front and centre so that their ideas can form a new system. What do we need to do to bring these young people together?
MY: I agree. When I meet younger people, they can be very positive and have lots of ideas about the future, but their ideas are drowned out by politics and business. For a start, I think we need to stop talking about challenges as ‘problems’. For example, when it comes to climate change, we can look at this as an enormous problem, or we can say it is an opportunity. An opportunity to make the world a better place and to fundamentally change our value systems. I think young people will rally around this. Some government leaders are beginning to understand this and talk in a slightly different way, but their default position is antagonistic political party tribalism. Young people will come together around a positive future; it is a question of building constructive movements which can make a genuine difference.
AM: I think Amanda really encapsulates that. She has a very obvious talent for writing and performing poetry which has given her a platform, but she, like everyone, had to start somewhere, and success wasn’t always a given – she has had to overcome a stammer, for example. I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us, and particularly for young people who might think that their talents or what they have to say are irrelevant. But we all have a voice, we all have valuable opinions and, if we never give them a platform, then we’ll never know the impact we can have on the world.
Our hope is that The New Ism can become a platform for those as-yet un-heard voices, so that they can join together to come up with solutions to the challenges that we face. After all, young people are the future, so if we can give them an opportunity to shape the future now, then I think we can all be more hopeful.
MY: Yep, Amanda has appeared from nowhere and now she is known across the globe. Obviously she had a great platform at the inauguration of the President of the USA and most mortals won’t get that opportunity, but there are many other ways of getting young voices heard. These voices need to rise about the combative noise of the current global political systems and inspire us all to be involved in creating a better world. At The New Ism will begin to highlight those voices and begin to talk about how to construct that new system.
AM: I can’t wait to get started and to start hearing their ideas! Watch this space for new podcasts, blogs and other developments coming from The New Ism this year!