At just 23 years old, Amanda Gorman has already made quite the name for herself as an African American poet on the national stage. Gorman is an inspiring young writer that captured the attention of many when she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Joe Biden’s inaugural ceremony. This performance was powerful and went viral all over the world, initiating conversations around unity, hope, and change at a time when Americans felt so divided. While this was the moment that spurred Gorman’s notoriety, there’s so much more to the story about how she got to where she is today. We’ll take a dive into her life and what helped her become a fascinating woman to watch.
Born in 1998 in sunny Los Angeles, California — Gorman and her siblings, including her twin sister, Gabrielle, were raised by her single mother, Joan. As a young girl, Gorman had a speech impediment, which made it difficult for her to say certain letters of the alphabet. In particular, the letter “r” was especially troublesome for her to pronounce. Rather than letting this bring her down, Gorman began looking for her voice through writing poetry. Once in high school, she began taking the poetry she wrote and reciting it out loud. Not only did this help her find her own unique voice, it also helped her overcome her speech impediment that many thought would hold her back. Her tenacity and courage to push forward through this small bump in the road led her to accomplish an amazing amount in a short time.
To further pursue her dreams, she went on to Harvard College to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 2020. During her time at Harvard, she continued making history when she was named the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States. Shortly after this accolade, Gorman was selected by President Biden to recite her original poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at his inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021.
Gorman Makes History Again
After being selected by President Biden to read her poem at the inauguration, this made her the youngest poet to have ever served in this role. A big enough accomplishment in itself, Gorman went on to also be the first poet commissioned to write an original poem to be recited at the Super Bowl. This poem reflected on the dedication of the essential workers who continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also the author of several books of poetry, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough” (2015), “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” (2021), and “Call Us What We Carry” (2021). She also wrote a lyrical children’s picture book, “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” (2021).
Before she became an inspirational African American poet, at just 16 years old, she created One Pen One Page (OPOP), an organization that provides creative writing programming and publishing opportunities to those in underserved communities. Inspired by her mother who is an English teacher at an inner-city public school, Gorman understood the literacy gap students of color face.
She knows that it’s one thing to write for where you are, and another to write for something bigger than yourself, and to find yourself in that future. Speaking with former First Lady Michelle Obama in a conversation in TIME magazine, Gorman reflected about her lifetime of ambition that continues even today.
“In everything you write, write something that is brave enough to be hopeful. In everything that you write, write something that is larger than yourself. I don’t think I would have been able to write that Inauguration poem if I hadn’t lived every day of my life as if that was the place I was going to get,” she said.
What the Future Holds for Amanda Gorman
Gorman has big plans for the future and looks to fellow inaugural poet Maya Angelou, an African American writer and civil rights activist, for inspiration. Gorman says that not only does she want to be a good poet but also a good person and this is what Angelou, who passed away in 2014, encompassed in her life. This remains at the forefront of how Gorman plans to bring light to oppression, racial issues, feminism, and more.
She’s expressed that her future goal is to run for President of the United States in 2036 to make even more of an impact.
She’s received recognition and support for this dream from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who expressed their excitement for her 2036 presidential campaign. We look forward to seeing what this very talented young woman will do next, whether it’s her next book or even a run for national office. Learn more about Amanda Gorman and her future aspirations. As she herself predicts, “I’m learning that I am not lighting that strikes once. I am the hurricane that comes every single year, and you can expect to see me again soon.”
Other Women to Watch
Gorman is only 23 years old, and she has only just scratched the surface for her potential to change the world through her poetry and spirit. Look out for our next Women to Watch profile showcasing another successful woman in the world. In the meantime, you can catch up with our last Women to Watch posts featuring Patrisse Cullors and Christy Turlington.