Who Is That Lady in Yellow?
A 21st Century Eppie

In my twilight years, I enjoy remembering my past. One would think that I would remember things that I loved doing. It is true; I do. I remember working Aunt Charlotte’s Candies coating pretzels with chocolate on a conveyor belt. I was in fifth grade at the time. Another happy moment was being a teaching assistant for a ten-hour art history class while I was still in college.

Trust me, those were extremely rewarding moments. Nonetheless, I clearly remember memorizing a hundred lines of poetry or prose each semester while I was in high school. If I could have found a means of deleting that requirement, I would have.

That being said, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t remember some, if not many, lines fairly close to what the writer had written. In January, I quoted in three articles lines from Robert Frost, James Russell Lowell, and Shakespeare. Critical Issues section on my webpage has Man in the Arena, “The Hand May Be a Little Child’s”, and Bobby Kennedy folders with other memorized quotations.

Having had to memorize and then recite them, especially in Mrs. Davis’ English class during my senior year, wasn’t a happy moment. She would have us come in before school started or after school and recite what we picked to memorize. I viewed memorizing and then reciting prose or poetry as a curse. I hated it, but it is now a blessing. That is the backstory.

On my birthday, January 20th, I watched bits and pieces of the inauguration of President Biden and Vice-President Harris. During the inauguration ceremony, I was in a local hospital to get my first COVID-19 shot.

The process took about an hour during which I caught snippets of the ceremony in Washington. I could recognize many of the faces, but there was not sound. Interestingly, I noticed a young lady in yellow for a brief view seconds.

Two weeks prior, I watched Trump’s failed coup d'état. Fortunately, our fake and now ex-president bungled his insertion like he messed up the response to COVID-19 and everything else in his life. In a week, the second impeachment trial will begin. However, looming darker on Trump’s horizon are both federal and state investigations.

Trump left Washington to a muffled military salute. I still can’t figure out why he got anything. As he greeted an extremely small crowd made up of family and fans with ruffles and flourishes, Trump went to his home in Mar-a-Lago. While in Washington, they prepared for the inauguration of Biden and Harris. I’ve seen many inaugurations in the past seven decades, but this one was quite different. Because of the Trump sponsored coup d'état, large crowds weren’t present.

There were more flags than people.

What was present was the military.

There were 25,000 military present though.

However, on the positive side, we have our first woman vice-president who is multiracial. Finally, the administration reflects its multicultural and ethnic background. We are transitioning from nearly all old white men to a more inclusiveness and diverse government.

John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama had poets at their inaugurations. However, each of them was old at the time they read their poems except for one who was in his mid-40s.

After I came back from by COVID-19 vaccination, I watched the inauguration on the Internet, I finally discover who that young lady in yellow was. Amanda Gorman was President Biden’s choice as the poet for the inauguration and what a choice. I’m teaching kids in college that are her age. In fact, Amanda is half the age of her youngest poet predecessors.

Amanda Gorman

So, I listened to that young lady in yellow…once, twice, three times. I sat back in awe. Then I started jotting down words: the next generation, optimist, juxtaposition, guts, alliteration, genius, sweet, honest, and my list went on and on. Where do I begin to pull all her attributes together in an orderly and sequential essay?

My mind drifted back to what Obama said in Selma on the 50th anniversary of Blood Sunday. “For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.”

Amanda is the pinnacle of Obama ’s statement. Now, do yourself a favor. Click on the sound bar and follow along as she reads her poem.

The Hill We Climb

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,
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 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'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 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 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 every 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.

Now, watch Amanda’s gestures and her expression in her face. There is an honest young woman that wants to help change the world.

This is Bobby Kennedy’s speech at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Bobby said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Amanda’s poem is a huge ripple will change America in the coming years.

That lady in yellow is a 21st century version of Eppie in George Eliot’s novella, Silas Marner. I memorized this paragraph six decades ago.

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.