Yesterday, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman stole many hearts with her hopeful message in poetry, as the youngest ever poet at a presidential inauguration. In 2036 she hopes to become president herself. Who is this young language artist, who says she is “proud to be in Biden’s club of people with a speech disorder”?
At 22, the charismatic Amanda Gorman will go down in history as the youngest ever poet at an inauguration ceremony for a new American president. Six poets preceded her, including two female: the late Maya Angelou (then 64) at Clinton’s dedication in 1993, and Elizabeth Alexander (then 45) who spoke at Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
It was First Lady Jill Biden who asked Gorman at the end of December to read a poem at the presidential inauguration, on the broad theme of “a united America.” The choice for the young poet did not come out of the blue. Gorman grew up in Los Angeles, along with twin sister Gabrielle and her single mother, a schoolteacher. At sixteen she became National Youth Poet in LA, only to become National Youth Poet of the United States three years later in 2015. She studied sociology at Harvard University and graduated cum laude last year.
“I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, since I was about four or five years old,” she says in an interview with the American radio station NPR. A teacher who is the novel Dandelion Wine Ray Bradbury’s reading in high school fueled the literary flames even more. In 2015 she published her first collection of poems, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. Themes such as racism, oppression and feminism color her work.
Inspiration from Martin Luther King
Her poem for the inauguration speech, The Hill we Climb, was largely completed at the beginning of January. “I had already done a lot of research,” she told CNN in an interview yesterday. “I read the poems of previous inauguration poets and immersed myself in the work of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston Churchill for inspiration. About halfway through my preparation, the Capitol was stormed on January 6. It gave me an energy boost to finish my poem. I wanted it to be a message of hope. ”
In terms of content, the poem is largely in line with Biden’s speech, with a look ahead towards a hopeful and better future. “Where can we find light in this everlasting shadow?” He said. “We were not prepared to become heirs to these terrible times. But we have found in ourselves the strength to write a new chapter, of hope and joy. ” And also: “Democracy may be temporarily pushed aside, but never beaten forever.”
The “club with a speech disorder”
What else Gorman has in common with Biden is a speech disorder. The new president never makes it a secret that he used to stutter heavily, and the young poet also had problems with her pronunciation for a long time. “I am proud that I can count myself among the group of people with a speech disorder, which includes Biden and you,” laughed Gorman in the interview with CNN, in which the interviewer himself also indicated that he had stuttered in the past. “I’ve been skipping certain letters since my childhood. I couldn’t say the letter ‘r’ until two or three years ago. Today that still happens sometimes. That is of course difficult if you are five times’rise“means in a poem.”
She used her passion for language, writing, and recitation to learn how to deal with that disorder, making it much better today. And the musical Hamilton also dragged her through, which was a source of inspiration twice in her speech yesterday, as the attentive listener has noticed. “I listened to the song a lot Aaron Burr Sir van Hamilton, a song with a lot of r’s. If I can sing this song, I should be able to say it, I thought. But Hamilton is also a source of inspiration because it is an important story about how you can become a better country. ”
Black female president in 2036?
Gorman certainly has an opinion on how America can become a better country. In an interview with LA Times in 2017, she already stated that she would also like to become president in 2036 – the first moment when she is old enough. The fact that, with Kamala Harris, a black woman of color is now making it to vice president for the first time, strengthens her even more in that intention. “Once little girls can see that, little girls can become it,” she said.
Finally, she revealed to CNN the inspiring mantra that she repeats every time she has to recite a poem – which she did yesterday. I close my eyes and say: I’m the daughter of black writers. I’m descendant from freedom fighters. Who broke their chains and changed the world. ” (Loosely translated: I am the daughter of black writers. I am a descendant of freedom fighters. Who shed their chains and changed the world). A young lady with spunk, which has not escaped the notice of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, among others. Remember her name so, to conclude with a song lyrics from another well-known musical.