Written by: Janelle Emokpae
On January 20th of 2021, the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris took place. The speeches, musical performances, and amazing outfits were some of the highlights of the ceremony, but there was one thing above all that certainly made everyone take pause. A young poet by the name of Amanda Gorman stole the attention of millions of viewers as she recited an utterly inspiring poem that she wrote herself. After listening to such a beautiful poem, many have wondered, who exactly is she? How did she get to such a prestigious point?
Born in 1998 in Los Angeles, California, Amanda's life was surely not like most. She was raised by a single mother and battled a speech impediment up until college. Even with these obstacles throughout her life, she still managed to accomplish great things. She was around 7 or 8 years old when she knew that she wanted to become a poet. She describes reading Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine in the third grade as magic and she knew that she wanted to do the same for other people. She worked extremely hard to achieve her dreams and become the best poet she could be, and that she did.
Writing became a way to express herself due to her speech impediment. She says in a CBS interview that because she couldn't use her voice, she would write her words on a page. In high school, she realized that just writing poems wasn't enough for her. She then went on to perform her poems and managed to grow past her disability.
In 2014 when she was only 16 years old, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She went on to establish her own non-profit organization called One Pen One Page to inspire other young writers and encourage youth advocacy. She published her first book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough the next year. At the age of 19, she was named the nation's first Youth Poet Laureate and recited her poem "In this Place" in Washington D.C. All of these accomplishments must have you thinking, it can't get any better than this! Jill Biden, the wife of our current president Joe Biden, hand-picked her to perform at the 2021 U.S. inauguration. To think that 22-year-old Amanda Gorman was given the same obligation notable poets such as Maya Angelou and Robert Frost were given is extraordinarily inspiring to say the least. She spent the weeks leading up to the inauguration crafting the beautiful poem we know today as "The Hill We Climb".
As she was writing this poem, the insurrection at the Capitol occurred. After watching and reading about what happened, she says that her poem came to life. The insurrection emphasized how much hope and unity was needed in this nation and she wanted her poem to reflect that. I believe that "The Hill We Climb" is what the nation needs at this time. It gives hope for the future and strength to build up our democracy.
Amanda Gorman is far from stopping on her bright path to success. She has two books coming out soon, one being a children's book called "Change Sings" and a poetry collection. She plans to run for president of the United States in 2036, which she 100% has my vote for. There is no doubt that she will have a big impact on our society and open doors for the children of the future. She is the voice of the generation.
Picture of Amanda at the inauguration
Picture of Amanda with yellow