Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate, recited a powerful poem at the 59th Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harrison on Wednesday, Jan. 20th, 2021. Gorman, who is 22, is the youngest inaugural poet in United States history.
“It’s amazing…Especially at my age. No one really gets to say, ‘At 22, I am the inaugural poet,'” she told CBS This Morning’s co-host Anthony Mason before her performance.
Following in the footsteps of such famous names as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, Gorman delivered her original composition, “The Hill We Climb,” at the Capitol in front of the entire country.
She said the riots at the Capitol ultimately changed her poem and the message she wanted to deliver.
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,” she said. “And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
Gorman, who lives in Los Angeles, was brought to the Inaugural Committee’s attention by first lady Jill Biden, who saw her recite a poem at the Library of Congress. Gorman said she “screamed and danced her head off” when she found out she had been chosen to read at the ceremony. She also said she felt “excitement, joy, honor and humility” when she was asked to take part, “and at the same time terror.”
Gorman became LA’s first Youth Laureate at the age of 16. In 2015, she published her first book, The One for Whom Food is Not Enough. While studying sociology at the illustrious Harvard University, she became the National Youth Poet Laureate. She has a children’s book titled Change Sings and a collection of poems, The Hill We Climb, that are both set to release in September.
Throughout her life Gorman suffered from a speech impediment-one affliction she shares with President Biden. To prepare for her performance, Gorman said that she read the poem aloud multiple times, “practicing it and trying to let it be known in my mouth, but not feel robotic.” (CBS) Also like Biden, Gorman hopes to one day run for president.
At one point in her poem, Gorman describes herself as a “skinny Black girl/ descended from slaves and raised by a single mother/ [who] can dream of being president one day/ only to find herself reciting for one.” This line has been one of the most memorable for me as it indirectly depicts the feelings of hope for many black girls and women today.
Amanda Gorman delivered her piece with such grace. Each word spoken will resonate with people for years to come: today, tomorrow, and far into the future.