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The Quiet Part in Biden’s Address

American poet Amanda Gorman speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2021. (Patrick Semansky/Reuters Pool)

President Biden’s inaugural address was a flat plea for unity, reconciliation, and an end to what he called our “uncivil war.” I applaud the new commander in chief’s lofty rhetoric, but worry that his administration might not live up to it, given his pledge to revive federal lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, among other divisive acts. It is my suspicion that when Biden warns that “the forces that divide us are deep and they are real,” he believes the entirety of those forces to be concentrated within the Republican Party and the Republican Party alone.

The poem that followed the address, delivered by 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, said this quiet part — implicit in Biden’s speech — rather loudly. Consider these excerpts:

We braved the belly of the beast

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished

Even as we grieved, we grew, that even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried. That will forever be tied together victorious not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it, that would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs to such a terrifying hour

Donald Trump’s presidency was without a doubt the most divisive in, if not American history, then recent American history. Joe Biden’s signaling that he wishes to be a president for all of his countrymen is a welcome divergence from his predecessor, but if he governs as if his party has nothing to do with the division we see today, it will only deepen under his watch.


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