What to know about Amanda Gorman, the poet who made history at Biden’s inauguration
You may not have heard of Amanda Gorman before the 2021 inauguration ceremony, but this remarkable young poet is quickly becoming a household name after the performance of her stirring poem in front of a national audience on Jan. 20.
At 22 years old, Gorman made history as the youngest person to deliver an inaugural poem. She shared the stage with major celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks for the entertainment portions of the inauguration ceremony in which Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States.
But Gorman stole the spotlight from the big stars on stage with the power of her passionate voice. Like millions of other people who watched the inauguration, you might be curious about this impressive young woman. Check out some facts about this poet who captivated the world with her words.
She Was Stunned By The Inauguration Invitation
Gorman, who was named the United States’ first Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 when she was only 19 years old, was invited by Dr. Jill Biden to recite an original work at the inauguration.
Gorman told ABC News she was “honestly shocked” by the invitation.
“I had not been expecting at 22 that they would trust me with such an honor,” Gorman said. “I was also daunted at the same time. I was honestly scared of writing such a poem. I wasn’t sure that I could even do it justice, but I’m so glad that I put my best foot forward and did it.”
ABC News tweeted about Gorman’s history-making performance:
“We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one…There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it—if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
— ABC News (@ABC) January 20, 2021
Capitol Riots Helped Her Finish The Inaugural Poem
The poem Gorman wrote and recited, “The Hill We Climb,” wasn’t an easy piece to create. In fact, Gorman told The New York Times she had to work on it “a few lines a day” to chip away at the huge task. On Jan. 6, she was only about halfway through with the work.
That day, riots erupted in Washington, D.C., and the the U.S. Capitol building was breached. Gorman said she stayed up late that night and finally finished the poem.
“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” she said, according to The New York Times. “But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
Overall, the poem’s theme was one of unity and hopefulness, including these lovely lines:
“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.”
She Included References To “Hamilton” In Her Poem
Seeking inspiration for her inaugural poem, Gorman listened to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, and two references from the hit Broadway show ultimately made it into the poem.
After the ceremony, Gorman reached out to Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter, asking if he noticed the references, and the “Hamilton” creator replied that her performance was “perfect,” and ended his tweet with a gushing, “Brava!”
You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava! -LMM
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 20, 2021
She Overcame A Speech Impediment As A Child
Gorman grew up in Los Angeles and was raised by a single mother who is a middle school teacher. Having a teacher for a mom helped Gorman find her passion for words and language, she told The LA Times.
The girl who loved reading, writing and performing soon learned to attack words in a different way due to a speech impediment. She had a hard time pronouncing certain letters, especially “R.” Although the impediment proved to be a challenge for the aspiring poet, Gorman believes it actually gave her a richer understanding of how words sound together.
“[The speech impediment] made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be,” Gorman told The LA Times. “When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”
Coincidentally, President Biden also struggled with a speech impediment growing up.
She Attended Harvard University
In 2014, when Gorman was 16 years old, Los Angeles named her the city’s Youth Poet Laureate. A couple of years later, Gorman set off for Harvard University where she studied sociology.
In 2018, she recited a poem for the inauguration of Harvard University’s President Larry Bacow. The following year, she did a recitation for the Fourth of July celebration with the Boston Pops.
She’s A Bestselling Author—Even Before Publication
So, what comes next for Amanda Gorman following a presidential performance?
In September, she will release two books. The first is called “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” the opening book of a two-part children’s book series.
The second book will be Gorman’s first published collection of poetry, titled after her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
The books are already available to pre-order on Amazon, though both have a release date of Sept. 21. Following Gorman’s appearance at the inauguration, each book rocketed to the top of the bestseller chart on the website, much to Gorman’s shock and delight.
I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY! Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: "For words alone are certain good: Sing, then"
— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) January 20, 2021
She Has Huge Goals For The Future
Gorman has one other aspiration she’s mentioned for years: She wants to run for president. She intends to run in 2036, the first year she’s eligible for the office. Based on a tweet by former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she already has some powerful support for her future candidacy.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 20, 2021
We think this young lady is well on her way to writing an amazing future for herself. Congratulations, Amanda!