At the age of 22, poet Amanda Gorman is an award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied Sociology. She is the author of the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (2016). Her art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. She has a history of writing for official occasions and has been asked to read her poetry at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“I have kind of stumbled upon this genre. It’s been something I find a lot of emotional reward in, writing something I can make people feel touched by, even if it’s just for a night,” says Gorman. She has written for everything from a July 4 celebration featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra to the inauguration at Harvard University, her alma mater, of school president Larry Bacow.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, she began writing at only a few years of age. Her words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. She has written for the New York Times and has performed multiple commissioned poems for CBS This Morning and spoken at numerous events and venues across the country, including the Library of Congress and Lincoln Center.
This inauguration will look vastly different due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Gorman will be among the small number of performers including Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, to join Biden and Harris for the swearing-in ceremony. She will be continuing a tradition for Democratic presidents that includes celebrated poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou whose poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she wrote for President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration went on to sell more than 1 million copies when published in book form.
Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet, and this is not the first time her name has hit headlines. In 2014, she was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, and three years later at just 19-years-old she became the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States. She has made appearances on MTV; written a tribute to Black athletes for Nike; and has a two-book deal with Viking Children’s Books. The first book, “Change Sings,” comes out later this year and is available for pre-order now.
Gorman said she was contacted in late December 2020 by the Biden inaugural committee. She has previously met with many public figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former First Lady Michelle Obama, but says that this will be her first time meeting the Bidens, though she learned that she had been recommended by the incoming first lady, Jill Biden.
Gorman’s inaugural poem is titled “The Hill We Climb,” and emphasizes the need for unity and hope in this country. The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election served as inspiration for her words. “That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” she said.
Amanda Gorman recites her poem, “The Miracle of Morning”
Amanda Gorman will make history on Wednesday, and she has dreams of other ceremonies where she can share her powerful poetry. She aspires to read at the 2028 Olympics which is scheduled to be held in Los Angeles, and in 2037 says she might find herself back at the presidential inauguration as the new chief executive! This young woman with a passion to evoke attention, education and movement on fronts such as social injustice, tolerance, and solution is definitely one to watch!
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