Gorman had a speech impediment just like President Biden but this is what encouraged her to become a performer.
On the historic Inauguration Day where President Joe Biden became the oldest president, at 78, to occupy the oval office and his running mate, Kamala Harris became the first woman of color to become US Vice President, there was one more person who created history by becoming the youngest Inaugural Poet, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman.
When the rising star from Los Angeles, California, took the stage and performed her poem The Hill We Climb at the ceremony, she left no doubts in the minds of the audience why the President chose her for reciting the poem. She echoed Biden's dream of a better America.
Her poem began with a question reflecting on why it's difficult to find hope during dire times, "When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" But then answered it herself as she continued, "And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished."
Following which she referred to the U.S. Capitol building riot and continued, "We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated."
As per BBC, the young woman described herself as "a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother"; she divulged her dreams of "becoming president, only to find her self reciting for one."
Talking to the outlet before the ceremony, the country's first National Youth Poet Laureate (2017) said, "I really wanted to use my words to be a point of unity and collaboration and togetherness. I think it's about a new chapter in the United States, about the future, and doing that through the elegance and beauty of words."
Gorman revealed that she looked at the works of poets like Richard Blanco, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou for inspiration while composing the poem for the inauguration. Talking to NPR, she said that she also looked at the works of great orators like Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke about unity and hope in crucial times so that she could study on ways "rhetoric has been used for good."
Just like former President Barack Obama's inaugural poet Richard Blanco called for unity in his poem One Day, Gorman dedicated a major piece of her poem to "every corner called our country" and ended it with an invitation for the people to come together and "step out of the shade" as "the new dawn blooms as we free it," she said. "For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it – if only we are brave enough to be it."
Oprah Winfrey took to Twitter to appreciate the new talent and penned that she had "never been prouder to see another young woman rise".
The former head of aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières, Joanne Liu, also wrote that the poem was "the most inspiring 5:43 minutes for the longest time." Former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote that her "strong and poignant words... reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can't wait to see what you do next."
Acknowledging Gorman's dream of running for President in 2036, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that "I for one can't wait." Angela Jackson, Illinois poet laureate, said that the recitation of the poem was "so rich and just so filled with truth" that she couldn't believe Gorman was "so young and so wise," quoted Chicago Sun-Times.
Describing her excitement when she was chosen to read at President Biden's swearing-in ceremony, Gorman said that she "screamed and danced her head off." She further said that the feeling of "excitement, joy, honor, and humility" was accompanied by that of "terror."
Gorman was born in Los Angeles in 1998 with a speech impediment just like President Biden, but she says that it's this little thing that made her into the performer she is today. At the mere age of 16, she became LA's youth poet laureate and just three years later, the National Youth Poet Laureate.
Before Biden, former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy were the only ones who had poets read their work at their inauguration ceremony. The talented Gorman is not just a great orator and poet, she writes as well. In 2015, she published her first book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. Her second work, a picture book titled Change Sings, will release later this year.
The inauguration ceremony was star-studded with Irish concert violinist Patricia Treacy beginning the performances followed by Lady Gaga performing The Star-Spangled Banner, as per NPR. Stars like Jennifer Lopez, Garth Brooks, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, and many others were present at the ceremony to make it a memorable one. Katy Perry performed her hit song Firework as the grand finale.