What did Amanda Gorman and the 192,000 flags at the Biden Inauguration say about how to use power of words and symbolism during a time of crisis management?

By Jim James

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Show podcast.

The power of speech continues to be a driving, growing, and powerful force in the world today. After a four-year period of speech being used for a fair degree of division and hatred in America, listening to Amanda Gorman’s poem at the inauguration with a star-studded cast was full of spectacle and symbolism. This is important in light of the events just last week on Capitol Hill, and America’s desire and need to retake center stage as the home of democracy and free speech. Because people could not attend, the inauguration committee put some 200,000 flags representing the 56 American states and territories down in the avenues there. Looking out towards George Washington and the obelisk, there would be a sea of American flags, which were lit as the evening came on with fantastic music and singing from Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks, making it all inclusive. But, the person that really stole the show was Amanda Gorman, the new Poet Laureate who is only 22 years old, who really illustrated the hopes and dreams of America.

From a public relations point of view, she has shown the power of speech. It was easy to get tied up in social media, images, and videos while she was wearing an amazing yellow jacket, and she is obviously a young and vibrant woman. It was the power of her words and the metaphors that she used in the delivery that have resonated around the world. Whilst America was impacted by the last four years of political division, the whole world has been struggling under the COVID-19. Her idea of finding hope and light through this darkness is something that resonated globally.

Photo from Fox News

In the SPEAK|pr program, messages of being new, being fresh, and being simple to understand, but most of all to go viral, are often conveyed. These elements need to play into a received wisdom that is already living within the audience. That is really what Amanda Gorman has managed to do. She managed to tap into the site, not just in America, but as she says, in the world. The reason for sharing this poem is not only is it uplifting and inspirational, but it also, from a public relations point of view, gives ideas about the importance of messaging, an event about inspiration as leaders at this time. That inspiration can come from anywhere, not necessarily from the traditional places nor people. Who would have thought in that star-studded cast judging course, including people like President Obama and Clinton, that the inspiration would come from a 22 year old woman from California who, as she says, descended from the slaves and was raised by a single mother, now dreams of becoming president one day. What an amazing story. It also goes to show that for all leading organizations, the opportunity and the time is now, to start thinking about the next generation of leadership and letting them have a voice. Let us listen to Amanda Gorman. Even without video, the words resonate even more so.
The Hill We Climb
Amanda Gorman
When the 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
And the norms and notions
Of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
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 a 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 knot, 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’s 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 force 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 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 action and inertia
Will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we mergy 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 the 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-limbed hills of the west
We will rise from the windswept northeast
Where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
We will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
And ever known nook of our nation and
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

Needless to say, there was massive applause from around the world for Amanda Gorman, both as a person and with her messaging. From a public relations point of view again, she was on stage presenting to a global audience. Within 24 hours, the Denver7 YouTube video had 505,427 views. It only had 300 subscribers to the channel; that is just Denver7 in Colorado. She herself has now got 1.2 million Twitter followers. That has also increased overnight, fairly significantly. The tweet that she took with the Clintons garnered 30,000 likes, 1.7 thousand retweets, and 476,000, quotes. Clearly, the viral effect of a message in this social media world can carry globally and pretty much instantaneously. Within 24 hours, this message of hope and goodwill, but also of youth and charisma, has gone around the world.


Assessing one’s own business and the messaging that one would like to portray to the team, customers, and staff, consider some of the lessons learned from Amanda Gorman’s presence on stage, and what can be done in one’s own words to lift and inspire people to step into the light. We have all been very blessed this week, to have had goodwill and hope amplified through the amazing poetry of Amanda Gorman.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed Show. You can listen here.



Cover Photo from The Guardian