Who Is Amanda Gorman? How the Young Poet Became the Star of Inauguration Day
During the final moments of a breathtaking, historic Inauguration Day, where President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (the first female, Black, and Asian vice president) were sworn into office, all eyes were on a young, rising star named Amanda Gorman. The 22-year-old from Los Angeles, California performed her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the ceremony, becoming the youngest Inaugural Poet in U.S. history.
Here is just some of what we know about the talented poet—who has her eyes set on becoming the President of the United States herself one day.
Gorman Turned to Poetry to Cope With a Speech Impediment
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Gorman fell in love with poetry after hearing her teacher read Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" to the class. She then turned to writing to cope with her speech impediment. Similar to how President Biden had a stutter growing up, Gorman had difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
"I don't look at my disability as a weakness," Gorman told the Los Angeles Times. "It's made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. 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."
The Poet Laureate Participated in a Popular Mentoring Program in L.A.
At age 14, Gorman joined WriteGirl, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls, attending their monthly creative writing workshops and working one-on-one with writing mentors.
"WriteGirl has been pivotal in my life. It's been thanks to their support that I've been able to chase my dreams as a writer," Gorman told NBC. "Special shout-out to my former mentors Michelle and Dinah. Couldn't have gotten here without you!"
WriteGirl Executive Director Keren Taylor noted that she had "no doubt Amanda's messages of hope, unity, and justice will help us all heal and move forward."
For aspiring poets or writers who want to follow in Gorman's footsteps, parents can get their kids involved in WriteGirl in L.A., Girls Write Now in New York City, or similar local organizations in your community.
Gorman Has a Track Record of Being a Celebrated Trailblazer
Gorman has already been a trailblazer not once but twice. When she was 16, she was named the first-ever Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. The New York Times reports that Gorman—who was inspired by a speech that Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize laureate, gave in 2013—became a youth delegate for the United Nations. "It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could accomplish," she said.
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Then, in 2017, when she was 19 and a sophomore at Harvard University, she became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. At the time, the Times noted that "her poetry is a cleareyed mix of autobiography, social issues like Islamophobia, and historical motifs picked up from her college's library." Gorman said of her work, "I want to create poems that stand the test of time and counter the fragmented news culture of today."
The Poet Has Two Books Forthcoming and Plans to Run for President
Gorman recently graduated cum laude from Harvard University, and she has two books forthcoming with Penguin Random House: a children's book called Change Sings and an upcoming poetry collection.
She is also the first person to announce her intention to run for president in 2036, the first election cycle in which she'll be old enough to do so. She told the L.A. Times that Vice President Harris reinvigorated her plans.
"There's no denying that a victory for her is a victory for all of us who would like to see ourselves represented as women of color in office," she told the newspaper. "It makes it more imaginable. Once little girls can see it, little girls can be it. Because they can be anything that they want, but that representation to make the dream exist in the first place is huge—even for me."