American poet Amanda Gorman reads her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb”

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice.

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it. Because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked: “How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?” Now we assert, “How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy, and change our children’s birthright.

So, let us leave behind a country better than one we were left. With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Personal, National and Global Values

Since reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s May 1 online New Yorker Magazine article “The Corona Virus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations,” I’ve been thinking about how the virus is impacting personal, national and global values. 

Climate Change and the Virus

It’s abundantly clear that Climate Change has dramatically changed our lives.  We’ve known since the 1960s that the planet was in trouble.  Now we see the results of humans polluting the air and the oceans, melting the permafrost, and encroaching on animals’ habitats, making the animals sick … and now the animals are making us sick.  (One theory is that a sick bat in Africa bit a pangolin – it’s like an aardvark – and the sick pangolin was sent to a wet market in China, where it was eaten.)  Now everyone on the planet is impacted. 

We Need to Stick Together

This time, we truly are all in this together.  In the past, it was a matter of crisis by region.  In California, where I live, we’ve lost lives to fires, earthquakes, and power outages.  Other parts of the country and the world have faced droughts, floods, hurricanes and worse.  Today we’re seeing how everyone in the world is interconnected: all facing the same crisis. We used to talk about saving future generations; now we know it’s our generation that needs saving.

The Economy versus Saving Lives

We have big questions to consider: What are the rights of the individual versus the needs of society; the needs of a region versus the globe?  Do we protect “the economy” versus protecting our health and human lives?  Do we want to continue with the old “normal” or are we willing to change to save the planet? 

How our Values have Changed

My friends and I discuss how our values have changed.  We used to enjoy eating out, going shopping, and traveling.  Now we value time with friends and family more than ever.  We have a higher regard for the people who work in healthcare, grow our food, educate our children, and provide shelter and clothing. 

Can You and I Save the Planet?

Personally, I’m focused on saving our planet.  How? I can reduce my carbon footprint by driving and flying less.  I hope to convince others to do the same.   I’ve always tried to be mindful of how much I consume, how much water I use, and how I handle my trash, but I hope to do better.

Will you join me?  What will you do to help our planet?

The holidays bring up such mixed emotions – there’s joy and hope…and there’s stress and sadness.

When I taught a class on managing holiday stress, participants gave me a long list of stressors that include worries about budget and creating a “perfect” holiday, and feeling sad when remembering loved ones who won’t be here this year.

Find Balance and Watch your Budget

Class members had plenty of ideas for reducing holiday stress.  They want to set realistic expectations, create a better balance between personal time and social time, and spend more time with supportive people.  Some people talked about reducing financial worries by changing some of their family traditions; instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family, they will have a white elephant exchange or arrange for secret Santa gifts, so that each person only buys one gift.

Stress Reduction Tips

During the holidays, more than at other times, it’s important to manage your stress.  This is the time for deep breathing exercises (breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 2, breathe out for 3 counts).  Progressive muscle relaxation is super helpful. Sit in a chair with your eyes closed.  Tense your right fist; let go.  Tense your whole right arm; let go. Do the same on the left side.  Then scrunch up your face and hold it tight; let go.  Tense your shoulders and your chest; let go.  Tense your stomach muscles; let go.  Tense your thighs and calves; let go.  Tense your toes; let go.

As members of my class completed  the exercise and opened their eyes, the energy in the room became light and peaceful.

Help Yourself to Help Others

So, first take care of yourself during the holidays. Then help others.  If you take time to volunteer or collect toys to donate, you’ll feel the joy of giving.  Plus, when we change the focus from materialism, we reap the benefits of feeling the spirit of the holiday season.

Your Rights

Remember:  You have the right to enjoy the holidays and even buy a gift for yourself.  You are also entitled to feel all your emotions – from happy to sad.  You don’t need to attend every party and eat all the food offered to you.  You can design the holiday you want to enjoy.  Make some new traditions.  What can you do differently this year?