Monday Morning Message 1.25.21 The Hill We Climb

Posted 2021-01-25 9:38am

“The study of English literature, especially lyric poetry, is the best preparation for the law… That training helped me later, when trying to decipher law statutes.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

“If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.” – President John F. Kennedy

“If we’re to live up to our own timeThen victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made / That is the promised glade
The hill we climb /If only we dare”
  -Amanda Gorman

At this defining moment in our nation’s history, it is worth pausing to read and listen to the words of Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

When Amanda Gorman read her poem, “The Hill we Climb,” during last week’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, her stirring words transcended the moment. Watch the video here:  The Hill We Climb

Law, like poetry, is the study of language. It requires interpretation and an acknowledgment of ambiguity and uncertainty. Each of us will see and hear different things in Amanda’s poem.

For me, it was a reminder that just as our nation has some steep hills to climb, so each of us has our own hills to climb. Some stare at the hills and never climb them. Some look for ways around them. Others dare to climb them.

Each of our students has bravely dared to climb a hill. With the support of their fellow students, our faculty, staff, and alumni, and their friends and family, I’m confident that each will reach the top…. and then look for the next hill to climb and conquer.

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 promised 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 

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be Brave.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.

My best,

Lee

Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 
| Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

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