Amanda Gorman: Inaugural Poet Today, America’s Hope Tomorrow

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman ’20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

In a unique moment in the history of the United States of America, a nation deeply divided along political and ideological lines, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman offered a vision of hope and possibilities.

Looking back to Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, January 20, one cannot look past the show-stealing moment in which Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” which was presented against the backdrop of the storming the Capitol, an event that stained the American democracy.

Gorman’s poem presented a new dawn of hope, as she said: “The new dawn blooms as we free it.” Perhaps it is all part of a bigger plan of fate as Gorman, who is also the youngest U.S inaugural poet in history, has goals to become the president of the United States someday.

“This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States,” she said matter-of-factly, in a 2017 interview with the New York Times. “So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”

Born in 1998 in Los Angeles, Gorman and her twin sister, Gabrielle, who is an activist and filmmaker, were raised by a mother who works as a teacher. She graduated from Harvard University in 2020. While at Harvard, Gorman became the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017. She was chosen from five finalists.

Gorman didn’t always have it easy. For most of her life, including when she was still an undergraduate at Harvard, she had trouble pronouncing the letter “R,” due to a speech impediment. She has described the spoken word as “my own type of pathology”.

Amanda Gorman

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 20, 2021. Source Patrick Semansky/AFP

Gorman told The Harvard Gazette in 2018, “I always saw it as a strength because since I was experiencing these obstacles in terms of my auditory and vocal skills, I became really good at reading and writing. I realized that at a young age when I was reciting the Marianne Deborah Williamson quote that ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’ to my mom.”

Again on inauguration day, she gave another hint at her intention during the presentation of her poem:

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one,” she said.

Gorman’s work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. And she isn’t waiting until 2036 before making her impact.

In 2016, Gorman founded the nonprofit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program.

In 2019, Gorman was chosen as one of The Root magazine’s “Young Futurists”, an annual list of “the 25 best and brightest young African-Americans who excel in the fields of social justice and activism, arts and culture, enterprise and corporate innovation, science and technology, and green innovation”.

On Monday, January 25, Gorman signed a deal with IMG Models, one of the world’s biggest modelling agencies, that represents more than half of the highest-paid supermodels.

Her dream to become the president of the United States is not only a vision shared by former first lady Hillary Clinton but it is also a vision that represents the aspirations of millions of women around the world who have been shut out and silenced.

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