Ever since I became of age to vote, I have tried my best to be more aware of how politics impact not only my life, but also the lives of those around me. However, as a woman who belongs to Gen Z, I have found it difficult to engage in American politics due to both the generational and gender gaps between those in political power and myself.
Historically, both women and younger Americans have been left out of the political realm. The average age of congressional representatives in the U.S. has been increasing since 1981, with the 115th Congress being one of the oldest in American history. Additionally, women make up only 23.6% of the 535 Congress members in 2020, and the U.S. compares poorly to most other countries in terms of gender equality in politics, trailing far behind our nearest neighbors, Canada and Mexico.
President Joe Biden has already shown us that he is committed to course-correcting this via his selection of cabinet members, yet there is still much work to be done. The ongoing representation gap in our political system suppresses opportunities and engagement for younger generations and women, creating a cycle of divisiveness.
The continued lack of diversity and stability within our political system makes me feel uneasy about the future of our country, especially during these chaotic times. However, Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” delivered at Biden’s inauguration ceremony, provided me with a new sense of empowerment and a positive outlook on the direction of American politics for the first time in my life.
Gorman, a 22-year-old African American woman and award-winning poet, has accomplished a series of firsts over the past few weeks. She is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, and on Sunday Feb. 7, Gorman became the first poet ever to perform for the Super Bowl with another powerful, original poem titled "Chorus of the Captains."
Gorman represents the diverse, progressive voices of Gen Z, inspiring America’s youth, women and racial minority groups. In her inaugural poem, she emphasized the importance of “composing a country, committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.”
Gorman strongly distinguishes herself as a poet through her beautifully expressed language, natural grace and strong verbal techniques. When she performs, it is nearly impossible to tell that Gorman has had a speech impediment since she was young.
Because Gen Z will be the next generation of leaders in government, it is imperative that our voices are heard now. We are the force behind change. We have the ability to give voices to those who belong to marginalized groups. We have the potential to develop new ideas and spark progressive conversations. Gorman and her poem reminded me of this potential, this power of a fresh, diverse generation.
Moreover, Gorman envisions our country coming together. Her inaugural poem expressed this potential for unity and harmony despite the tumultuous past couple of years.
“We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside … we'll forever be tied together, victorious,” Gorman said. “Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.”
Gorman’s optimism regarding the future of our country gave those who were deeply discouraged and doubtful, such as myself, a palpable sense of hope and reassurance. She is a beacon of hope for a more participatory democracy and government. Her poem symbolizes a turning point in the political realm, and her stirring delivery at the inauguration shed light on a promising future.
“For there was always light,” Gorman said. “If only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.”