Who Is Amanda Gorman?

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.

She said the ring she wore while reading her poem Wednesday was gifted to her by Oprah Winfrey. It depicted a caged bird in honor of the late poet Maya Angelou.

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.

Her Dreams:

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. 

Poem Excerpt:

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’s Background:

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.

Amanda’s Activism:

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.

One of the books is a collection of poetry that shares a title with “The Hill We Climb.” She has also written a children’s book called “Change Sings.”

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.

Her Future:

I think we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from this talented young woman in the near future.

You can find out more about Amanda on Instagram and her website.

The full poem she read can be found here from an article by CNN.

17 Comments

  1. When she walked up to the podium and when she started speaking I got chills. I knew something very special was about to happen and she spoke to the soul of America. I read about how she came to write the poem… she was struggling a bit with it at first and adding a few lines at a time. Then, after watching the insurrection she was compelled by what she was witness to and she found the words to finish the poem that night. She is also an activist…. from her website “her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization”. I believe we will be hearing a LOT more from her.

  2. What a gift to America she gave us! It was truthful but hopeful. It was every bit a love letter to America and its potential while acknowledging our past history. Thank you for posting this.

  3. Hearing the poem being read yesterday at the inauguration, I was absolutely enraptured by Ms. Gorman and the voice she wove in and out of the poem she wrote especially for the event. It was magical, lyrical, touching. What a talented and special person Ms. Gorman is. Seeing a young person like her gives me great hope our future as a nation. I found myself in tears a lot yesterday. Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of shared sorrows as during the visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, tears of release. And lots of ooohs and aaaahs even while I was sitting at home watching on a computer screen when I turned on the entertainment in the evening toward its end and happened to catch most of the incredible and indescribable fireworks display while Katy Perry sang “Firework.”

  4. I agree wholeheartedly, Brenda. I was absolutely enraptured as I listened to this young woman. Every now and then , if you’re lucky, you have an experience that takes you out of yourself, and transports you somewhere you’ve never been. Her beautiful poem did just that. I was transfixed and transported. Well done, Amanda. I so look forward to reading you for many years to come.

  5. She’s a beautiful, talented young woman. But truly, wasn’t it a little long? And what did it even mean? Come on! Not well-crafted and let’s not patronize.

    And to say you haven’t been proud of our country for the last four years? Even though you didn’t like our president, we still live in a beautiful, free country with truly wonderful, kind people of which we should be very proud regardless who’s president!

  6. What a truly amazing woman she is and we felt like your previous comments said being in awe over her expression of words. Spellbound was how I felt when she finished. My daughter heard so much from coworkers about it that she googled her performance at the inauguration and told me last night how wonderful it was. I saw Anderson Cooper interview her on CNN later and it’s a great interview! Hillary Clinton had a picture taken with her encouraging her to run for president so it was so cool to think she has such a bright future ahead!

  7. I agree. She was wonderful. I was a very proud American yesterday. First time in last 4 years. Thanks for the info. Just wow

  8. OMG! I was absolutely mesmerized by this beautiful young woman reciting her poetry. I have watched her several more times on you tube of her delivery of her poem at the inauguration and can’t get enough if her. The eloquence and truth of her words, and her evident passion displayed during the recitation, moved me beyond words. Yesterday was such an uplifting and hopeful day as the country moves forward with our new President and Vice President.

    I will order Amanda Gormans’ book, but oh my, could you imagine an audio book of her, in her voice, reciting the poetry she has written? Sign me up for that!

  9. This young woman blew my socks off when I heard her yesterday. Her words were powerful and incredible and her deliverance of the poem was the icing on the cake. I’ve watched the video over and over again. I can’t wait to read her books.

  10. I sat in amazed awe as so many others did. I wanted and needed to know about her so I did a quick Google search. Wow, just wow!!!

  11. I was overwhelmed with the poem and the poet. The words, her self-assurance and her presentation were a joy to behold. Thank you for writing about her today. I have pre-ordered her book and I am looking forward to reading more of her poetry.

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