Even at such a star-studded, emotionally moving event as President Biden’s inauguration, one woman managed to steal the show. No, I’m not talking about Lady Gaga and her massive bird pin–although she was great. Everybody’s talking about Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest poet to give a reading at a presidential inauguration.
Her moving words, incredible presence, and–yes–her bold fashion statement have turned Amanda Gorman into an overnight sensation.
Who Is Amanda Gorman?
At just 22 years old, Amanda Gorman is perhaps the most famous living poet in America–this week, anyway–because of her appearance at Biden’s inauguration. Dr. Jill Biden personally suggested Gorman, who was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
Gorman grew up in Los Angeles and rose as a prominent poet and activist while she was still a teenager. She published her first book of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015. Her forthcoming books shot to the top of the Amazon charts today. In case you don’t know, that’s not normal for poetry titles.
Gorman revealed that she grew up with a speech impediment and practiced her reading non-stop before the inauguration as well as studying great speakers such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Gorman Joins List of Immense Inaugural Talents
Only six incoming presidents have chosen to ask a poet to speak at the ceremony.
- In 1961, John F. Kennedy called on Robert Frost to read “The Gift Outright”
- Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993
- At Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997, Miller Williams read “Of History and Hope”
- Barack Obama asked Elizabeth Alexander to read “Praise Song for the Day” in 2009
- At Obama’s second term inauguration in 2013, Richard Blanco read “One Today”
Over time, the inauguration has become a bigger event, with balls, church services, parades, and entertainment spanning multiple days. Although Biden’s inauguration was scaled back in many ways because of the pandemic, as well as the looming threat of terrorist violence or insurrection, the day still featured multiple musical guests in addition to Gorman’s reading.
‘The Hill We Climb’
After being chosen to give a reading at the inauguration, Gorman was given about a month to write a poem on the subject of “America United.” However, she revealed that the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th changed everything.
She told CBS News, that was the day “the poem really came to life.” Gorman finished the poem that night, even as it was unclear whether more violence would follow.
Her self-assured presentation, combined with the elegant hand gestures and her striking gold and red ensemble made an impression on viewers. One of her fans was Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted his praise. Delighted, she replied that she’d included a cheeky reference to his work in her poem. History has its eyes on us… and all eyes are on Amanda Gorman.
In case you missed it, check out her full reading of “The Hill We Climb” below: