A week after the Biden-Harris inauguration, and this visual continues to permeate my retinas. Vice President Harris — dressed purposefully in purple, a symbol of unity in a red/blue political landscape — honoring Amanda Gorman, youth poet laureate (and possibly President-elect in 2036), whose vibrant yellow coat exudes the light of which she so eloquently spoke in her poem for the occasion and whose accessories — earrings, ring, hair band — honor women who have inspired her.
The visual vitality that women brought to the inauguration was a feast for the eyes and the soul. Dr. Jill Biden, Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush all showed up in monochrome outfits which served to convey solidarity and support for the historic ‘first’ for a woman in power in the US. The overall visual effect was more kodachrome than monochrome in its ‘eye-catchiness.’ And what it conveyed was simple: while Harris is the focus, she is supported by those who have preceded her, those who will serve alongside her, and those who will follow in her wake. In this photo Gorman is symbolic of young women everywhere who now have visual evidence that the highest seats of power are theirs to claim.
It was Gorman who stole the show with her voice, though. Imagine taking the stage at an event watched by millions of people from all corners of the earth. Following the swearings-in of Harris and Biden, and the soaring vocals of Lady Gaga and J Lo. Aged 22. A “skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mom.” And –scourged by a speech impediment.
In an interview with Jenna Bush of ‘The Today Show’ (and the daughter of former President George W. Bush), Gorman spoke of her struggles with articulating certain sounds, which until recently meant she couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘R.’ It was in reciting her own poetry aloud that she overcame her speech impediment. “I hear this strong, self-assured voice when I am reading this simple text, and what that told me is the power of your inner voice over that which people might hear with their ears,” she said.
“The only thing that can impede me is myself.”
Harris has given women, especially women of color, a visual to inspire leadership aspirations (as well as tremendous talent and years of hard work towards this post). Gorman has given us an eloquent challenge to trust, and express, our inner voices, to challenge our own self-imposed impediments, and to hear and heed the voices of those who may not fit the current prototype of ‘leader.’ The leadership prototype may soon look like – and sound like – Amanda Gorman.
Yours in visualizing, and hearing, new norms,