Amanda Gorman

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Carlos M. Vazquez II; MC1

Amanda Gorman recites her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Nicole Dipre, Staff Writer

The 22-year-old poet and activist Amanda Gorman delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb” in a time of political conflict unlike any previous inaugural poets of the country.

The poem, requested to be written about national unity as the theme for the inauguration, was completed by Gorman on January 6th, the same day a group of Pro-Trump rioters stormed the capitol building. The political conflict that turned violent, civil unrest, and exhausting effects of a deadly pandemic had all weighed on the shoulders of the millions of citizens listening to her speech, one delivered to end a presidency associated with the worsening of those developments. 

“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. 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,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

She constructed the poem at a steady rate of a few lines per day but picked up the pace after the Capitol storming and stayed up late to complete it. Sending a message out of national unity in a nation arguably more divided than ever before was a uniquely unprecedented challenge for any inaugural poet.

Gorman’s writing career began as early as her childhood, but her speech impediment brought fear to publicly performing her works. “The writing process is its own excruciating form,” she said. “But as someone with a speech impediment, speaking in front of millions of people presents its own type of terror.” Gorman says she recited the poem aloud over and over to practice and drew inspiration from other great public speakers, like Martin Luther King Jr. 

While many Americans saw her poetry reading as a debut, the nation’s first-ever youth poet laureate has a number of accomplishments that should not be overlooked. Not only is she the youngest inaugural poet in United States history, but she has also won invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others, among other spectacular achievements. 

In September of  this year, Penguin Random House will be releasing a book by Gorman: “Change Sings,” her debut children’s book. “The Hill We Climb,” a poetry collection was released on March 30th. 

 

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