On the heels of the Biden inauguration, poet Amanda Gorman is a rising star who represents the best of America

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National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

On January 20, 2021, a new president wasn’t the only person the American people were introduced to. Preceding the moment of Joe Biden’s inauguration, Americans tuned in to the swearing-in ceremony for a number of special performances. Among the musical stylings of Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks was inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, who recited her groundbreaking poem “The Hill We Climb.”

Gorman is the United States’ first National Youth Poet Laureate, having been granted the honorable title in 2017. “The Hill We Climb” spoke to many Americans about the future of the country. The 22-year-old’s poem was admired nationwide, and she has many Americans asking for more from her.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Gorman began writing at a very young age. She grew up with her mother, a middle school teacher, and her two siblings. Her mother encouraged her to explore reading and writing as a child.

At age 16, Gorman was a youth delegate to the United Nations, and she later was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She published her first poetry collection, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, soon after that. Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez said, “Don’t doubt [Gorman’s] going to be a major literary figure in this country, if not the world.”

Majoring in sociology, Gorman graduated cum laude from Harvard University. While at Harvard, she was named the United States’ first National Youth Poet Laureate. She has spoken at the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Center, and was invited by President Barack Obama to speak at the White House, among other notable appearances.

This year, 22-year-old Gorman was commissioned to recite a poem at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, reciting the notable “The Hill We Climb” before his swearing-in. She is the sixth and youngest inaugural poet in history; preceding Robert Frost (John F. Kennedy 1961), Maya Angelou (Bill Clinton 1993), Miller Williams (Bill Clinton 1997), Elizabeth Alexander (Barack Obama 2009), and Richard Blanco (Barack Obama 2013).

“The Hill We Climb” addresses the effort and time it will take to rebuild the United States as a country of justice and equality. Especially in the past year, America has faced vast challenges to its democracy, and the door that concealed the systemically unequal nature of the country was ripped from its hinges.

“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” Gorman told the New York Times before her recitation at the inauguration. “But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal.”

The poem also responds to the riot at the US Capitol Building, which had happened only two weeks prior. Gorman added several lines to “The Hill We Climb” following the attempted coup by outgoing President Trump’s supporters. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed / It can never be permanently defeated,” Gorman recited.

Despite having a speech impediment, an auditory processing disorder, and a hypersensitivity to sound, Gorman is incredibly eloquent and well-spoken, giving her words all the more power. Gorman is not negatively affected by her disability, and rather, gives thanks to it for making her the performer that she is.

Furthermore, Gorman has expressed how moved she was by the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and person of color to be elected to the office. Gorman, who sees herself as having a future in politics, said, “There’s no denying that a victory for her is a victory for all of us who would like to see ourselves represented as women of color in office.”

Gorman’s inauguration performance blew up, and Americans couldn’t wait to see more of her. They weren’t disappointed when she was featured reciting an original poem during the pregame ceremony for Super Bowl LV. She introduced the three honorary captains for the coin toss, all essential workers: James Martin (a US Marine veteran), Trimaine Davis (an educator), and Suzie Dorner (an ICU nurse manager).

It’s safe to say that America has not seen the last of Amanda Gorman. Her powerful, young voice speaks for a generation seeking a bright future for the nation, and America needs to hear her words now more than ever.

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