Two years before her mesmerizing performance at Biden’s inauguration, poet Amanda Gorman went to Harvard Business School to inspire a two-and-one-half-day dialogue on a series of conversations on key topics.
Just as the 22-year-old wowed the world with her recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman’s words set the pace for the event in what is already her trademark graceful and stirring cadence and delivery. Gorman had a direct connection to Harvard, having studied sociology at the university when she became the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate.
The HBS discussions in 2019, spread over more than 30 working sessions, explored a wide variety of topics, ranging from Making Democracy Work to Combating Climate Change.
Here is the poem she wrote for the occasion.
What if our world’s leaders, innovators, and thinkers,
Didn’t speak about change in monologues?
What if we spoke, and hoped, through dialogue?We’ve asked this since
The ancient past that is our prologue,
Since the dry dust of our dawn.
It was the Greek Plato, grisly grey, chiseled-cheeked,
Robed in rose, who asked “what if?” through dialogue.
He knew the pendulum of discussion is the best instrument
For solving problems. You see, the back and forth, give and take,
push and pull of dialogue uncover truth, the way ebbs and flows
of the sea slowly reveal shells once hidden under sand.
And so we must understand that dialogue is not simply monologue
With another person, two mouths gaping, but not listening, like
Two mockingbirds who sing in the same forest
But never learn the other’s song. All along, ‘dialogue’
Is speech that seeks a common aim:
The answer to “what if”.
While dialogue is not the chorus, speaking perfectly as one,
Dialogue is that daring cacophony,
The diverse call to action.
It is complex, and sometimes chaotic, conversation,
It is courageous confrontation,
It is the collective compassion
For the common good.
It is meeting with meaning, participation with purpose,
Speech in service of others.
Dictionaries define dialogue as a discussion, or to discuss,
Especially toward exploration or resolution of a problem.
Here, by ‘dialogue’, we do not mean it in the abstract.
We mean it in the act.
It is a verb in every sense of the word,
It is participating, communicating, activating,
Because we know something has to be done, and fast,
And though it might take years, change is worth a lifetime.
Push by pull, back by forth, we might not get the correct answers,
But we get closer to asking the right questions:
What if our world’s leaders, businesses,
innovators, thinkers, gathered together?
What if we could look in each other’s eyes,
Not for press or publicity, but for progress?
Then we, the assembled, would act,
With these words at our prow:
If past is written in prologue,
Our progress will be spoken in dialogue,
Dialogue as verb, vocation, a vow,
To not only ask what if
But take up the task of what now.
You can see her perform the poem here.
DON’T MISS: Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 2022