Amanda Gorman made history on Wednesday as the youngest poet to ever perform at a presidential inauguration.
The 22-year-old Youth Poet Laureate wore a bright red headband and vibrant yellow coat, both by Prada, to do a reading of her piece “The Hill We Climb,” written especially for the occasion. In preparation for the event, Gorman deeply researched the works of former inaugural poets as well as those great public orators throughout history who have spoken about a divided America and how to reunite it, including Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Winston Churchill. On the subject of her poem, she told the BBC World Service’s Newshour ahead of the ceremony, “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.” Through all of her research, Gorman also discovered a deeper connection she shares with Joe Biden—a childhood speech impediment. But much like the current president, despite once having difficulty saying certain letters, Gorman has now gone on to read her poetry everywhere from the Library of Congress to the deck of the Empire State Building.
Gorman was reportedly about halfway through writing “The Hill We Climb” on January 6 when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building, inspiring her to stay up all night to finish the piece and include some of the destructive scenes she saw playing out on TV. And it wasn’t just those in attendance on Wednesday who noticed Gorman’s skill, Regina King tweeted at her, “You @TheAmandaGorman give me hope. You are grace personified. You captured the history of this country and what democracy should mean beautifully. Thank you for showing up for LA. Thank you for showing up for this country.” And in response to Lin-Manuel Miranda simply tweeting “YES” in response to her reading, Gorman replied, “Thx @Lin_Manuel! Did you catch the 2 @HamiltonMusical references in the inaugural poem? I couldn’t help myself!”
The young poet was initially inspired to become a youth delegate for the United Nations at age 16 after hearing a speech given by Malala Yousafzai in 2013. The following year, Gorman was named the inaugural Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate and in 2015 she published her first collection of poetry, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.” In a 2017 profile after becoming the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman told the New York Times about one of her main goals for the future: “This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States. So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”
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