Who Is 22-Year-Old Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman?
Joining the ranks of Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, 22-year-old native Angeleno and activist Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet to help mark the transition of presidential power in U.S. history. She will perform a piece titled “The Hill We Climb” during the inauguration, in which Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.
The star-studded swearing-in ceremony also features performances from Lady Gaga, who will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a musical act from “Hustlers” star Jennifer Lopez. Other participants include Father Leo J. O’Donovan delivering the invocation, Andrea Hall leading the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman giving the benediction.
In an interview with NPR, Gorman shared an excerpt of the six-minute poem that she will recite on inauguration day:
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated
In this truth, in this faith we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
History has its eyes on us.”
The poet promised in a New York Times interview that she would not “gloss over” the difficulties the country has faced in the past few years, as well as the “harsh truths” that America has yet to reckon with, but will also emphasize collective healing, touching on the inauguration’s theme of “America United.” Additionally, verses in the recently-composed poem will broach the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, an unprecedented insurrection carried out by pro-Trump extremists that left five people dead.
Inauguration Day won’t be the first time that Gorman has made history. In 2017, she was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, kicking off the Library of Congress’ annual literary season by reading another poem with similar political undertones to usher in Tracy K. Smith as the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Though young, Gorman has already amassed a plethora of accolades and accomplishments in writing.
Gorman turned to writing at an early age to cope with her speech impediment (a bond she shares with the 46th president and another inaugural poet, Maya Angelou). At age 14, Gorman joined WriteGirl, an L.A.-based nonprofit organization that helps empower teenage girls through creative writing. Throughout her high school years, Gorman found her voice by attending WriteGirl’s monthly creative writing workshops and was matched with writing mentors for one-on-one mentoring. While in the program, Gorman was named as the first-ever Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate in 2014. By the following year, Gorman published her first book of poetry (though certainly not her last), “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.”
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Last year, Gorman graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in sociology. She also participated in another type of commencement ceremony, hosted by John Krasinski in his unscripted web series “Some Good News” for students nationwide graduating remotely. Gorman, along with a selected group of other college seniors, were given a chance to talk to Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart, Steven Spielberg and fellow famous 2020 graduate Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, during private Q&As. Toward the end of the ceremony, Gorman was asked to perform one of her works.
Gorman has two books forthcoming with Penguin Random House, including an illustrated children’s book “Change Sings” and an upcoming poetry collection.
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