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Meet the Poet Reading at the Biden-Harris Inauguration: Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Amanda Gorman

Who is Amanda Gorman?

Amanda Gorman is widely known as the poet making history at President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. She is the youngest inaugural poet the United States has ever had. According to the Associated Press, Gorman was nominated for the role by Dr. Jill Biden.

It is pretty amazing that Gorman is already a seasoned pro in this particular field. She has written poems for events such as the inauguration of Harvard President Larry Bacow and the Fourth of July celebration with the Boston Pops in 2019.

How old is Amanda Gorman?

Amanda Gorman is 22 years old.

Facts You Probably You Didn’t Know About Amanda Gorman

Gorman’s Inaugural Poem Is Titled ‘The Hill We Climb’

The Biden inaugural team reached out to Gorman in late December about delivering an original poem at the inauguration ceremony. She told the Associated Press that she was largely granted free rein over the poem but was encouraged to highlight “unity and hope.”

Gorman said the Biden team also recommended that she stay away from anything that might sound like they were celebrating the end of Trump’s tenure.

Gorman explained she initially struggled to write more than a few lines per day. She expressed her initial concern in an interview with The New York Times. “I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” Gorman said.

But the events of January 6 gave Gorman a “second wave of energy to finish the poem,” she told the Associated Press. Gorman said the poem, which she titled “The Hill We Climb,” would take her about six minutes to read.

Amanda Gorman Poems/Mantra

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.

Gorman Overcame a Childhood Speech Impediment

Gorman had to work to overcome a speech impediment as a child. She explained to The Harvard Gazette in 2018 that she had an auditory disorder that caused her to “hear and process information differently than other people.”

In a January 2021 interview with NPR, she specified that her speech impediment included difficulty pronouncing certain letters of the alphabet, including the letter R. “I’d want to say ‘girls can change the world,’ but I cannot say so many letters in that statement, so I’d say things like ‘young women can shape the globe. I would be in the bathroom scribbling five minutes before trying to figure out if I could say ‘Earth’ or if I can say ‘girl’ or if I can say ‘poetry.’ And you know, doing the best with the poem I could,” she told NPR.

Gorman told the Los Angeles Times that she now believes the disorder may have enhanced her skills as a writer.

“I don’t look at my disability as a weakness. 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.”

Gorman Was Named the First National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017

Gorman has racked up a long list of accomplishments in her relatively short career thus far. At age 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. Three years later, at age 19, she was honored as the first National Youth Poet Laureate.

She accepted the honor in a ceremony at the Gracie Mansion in New York City.

While serving as the Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman sat down with Jenna Bush Hager for the Today show. Gorman explained that her poetry focuses on social change and justice because she feels she has a duty to use her voice.

In 2016, she was invited to the Obama White House as part of a celebration with other Youth Poet Laureates from around the country. Gorman later gushed to GirlBoss about what it was like to meet Michelle Obama. “I’m so surprised I didn’t faint because when I walked into the room and I saw her, my brain just stopped working,” Gorman recalled. “I just sputtered out, ‘I love you!’ I was just so overwhelmed. It’s like standing next to a goddess. I can’t even.”

According to her website, Gorman has read her poetry in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and Malala Yousafzai. She performed her poem “In This Place: An American Lyric” at the Library of Congress in 2017.

She read her poem “The Gathering Place” at the 2017 Social Good Summit, which was put on by the United Nations.

Amanda Gorman Early Life, Education, Family

Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has an older brother named Spencer and a twin sister named Gabrielle. Gorman talked about her childhood with 10 magazines and described herself as having been “a grandmother in a 7-year-old’s body.” She said there was an internal struggle between “the social Amanda, who is excited and talks to people and engages, and then there is the poetic Amanda, who by necessity exists off the subsistence of a reclusive life.”

Gorman was raised by a single mother, Joan Wicks, who worked as a middle school teacher, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Gorman attended Harvard University and studied sociology and graduated with the class of 2020.

Gorman Is a Published Author & Hosted a PBS Special About Racism

Gorman is a published author. Her first book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, was published by Penmanship Books in 2015, according to Poets.org.

Books

As Gorman notes on her website, she has two new books that she expects to release with Penguin Random House in 2021. One of those books is a collection of poetry that shares a title with her inauguration piece, The Hill We Climb.

Gorman has also written a children’s book called Change Sings. She explained on social media that she wants the book to serve as a “children’s anthem to remind young readers that they have the power to shape the world.”

TV Hosting

In recent months, Gorman has also tried her hand at TV hosting.

She served as the host for a PBS Kids special about racism in October 2020. Gorman told USA Today that she feels adults should talk to children about race early on. “One piece of advice I would have is we often don’t give kids enough credit for their intelligence, particularly their emotional and moral intelligence,

“The children of today are ready to have deeper conversations that supersede just talking about Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson. Not to say that those figures aren’t important, but there’s such a beautiful rich tapestry of the history of fighting for racial equality, and it’s a story that our children deserve to be told.”

Anderson Cooper Interview With Amanda Gorman

CNN’s Anderson Cooper was as awestruck as countless others were Wednesday by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman.

In an interview on Wednesday on “Anderson Cooper 360,” Gorman described the vision behind the piece, which underlined marching on toward unity, hope and healing amid a damaged and divided nation.

“I felt like that was the type of poem I needed to write, and I felt like that was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she said.

Cooper highlighted the final passage of “The Hill We Climb,” which he said gave him shivers:

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover, in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.

“I’m so glad you brought up the last line,” Gorman said. She explained that she ultimately chose “be it” for her conclusion because “hope isn’t something that we ask of others, it’s something that we have to demand from ourselves.

Cooper also asked Gorman if she could reveal the mantra she’s said to recite prior to her readings.

“I do it whenever I perform, and I definitely did it this time,” Gorman said. “I close my eyes and I say: I am the daughter of Black writers, we are descended from freedom fighters, who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”

Cooper, in stunned silence, managed: “Wow. Um, wow. You’re awesome. I’m so transfixed.”

“President Gorman has a nice ring to it,” Cooper commented.

“Yes, it does,” she replied. “Madam President Gorman. I like the sound of that.”

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