If you watched or saw any footage of the president’s inauguration on January 20, then you probably saw 22 year old Amanda Gorman read her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” She was the youngest poet selected for the honor.
Amanda is a graduate of Harvard University (2020). She was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, when she was just 19 years old.
It’s hard to believe, but this young woman dealt with a speech impediment until 2-3 years ago. She said she overcame it with a musical about American history. As recent as her college days she was still struggling to say the “R” sound.
So she would listen to the song “Aaron Burr, Sir”, which is packed with R’s. And she would try to keep up with Leslie Odom, Jr. as he was performing his amazing rap.
She told herself: “If I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter.”
This lovely, beautiful and poised young woman performed magnificently. Everyone was in complete awe of her.
Who Is She?
Afterward on social media, everyone was asking about this talented young woman. “Who is that young woman?” they kept asking.
As soon as she began speaking, her voice lilting and so beautifully earnest, I thought to myself: A star is born.
You could detect no traces of a speech impediment.
Which just goes to show you that if you want and believe in something strong enough, you can overcome your fears.
She had already been asked to perform at the inauguration, but when the insurrection on the Capitol occurred Jan. 6, she adjusted her poem to further reflect the country.
“I felt that was the type of poem I needed to write and the type of poem the nation and country needed to hear.”
Amanda spoke for nearly six minutes while the crowd sat in complete awe of her.
Amanda Gorman became the youngest person to deliver a poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration, with the 22-year-old reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president.
Gorman spoke for nearly six minutes.
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
Amanda grew up in Los Angeles with her twin sister, Gabrielle as well as another sibling.
Their mother, Joan Wicks, is a teacher who raised her children as a single mother. Joan holds a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University.
Amanda said her mother’s teaching career was an inspiration for her.
Youth Poet Laureate:
At age 16, Amanda was named the Youth Poet Laureate for Los Angeles. The very next year she published her first collection called “The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough” in 2015.
Her work focuses on issues such as oppression, feminism, race and marginalization.
She founded One Pen One Page in 2016, a non-profit organization that gives young writers a platform to tell their stories.
Amanda said that she was largely granted free rein over the poem she read at the inauguration. But she was encouraged to highlight unity and hope.
The Biden team also recommended that she stay away from anything that might sound like they were celebrating the end of President Trump’s tenure.
Her Published Books:
Amanda has two new books that she expects to be released with Penguin Random House in 2021.
She said on social media that she wanted the book to be a “children’s anthem to remind young readers that they have the power to shape the world.”
Almost a decade ago Amanda was still a student in Los Angeles. She spent her days reading Toni Morrison and writing in her journals. She dreamed of one day becoming a writer.
I think we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from this talented young woman in the near future.
The full poem she read can be found here from an article by CNN.