National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, 22, spoke at President Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, at the nation’s Capitol in front of America’s highest-ranking representatives. The televised event was watched by millions of Americans and people around the world. Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history and composed her inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb,” to inspire hope and foster a sense of collective purpose at a moment when Americans are reeling from a global pandemic, political violence and a partisan division. Her poem was in part inspired by the riots that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Gorman was chosen by Dr. Jill Biden, now First Lady of the United States, to write and present a poem, not unlike her predecessors Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Miller Williams.
“For there was always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
The previous lines ended the poem Gorman read at the inauguration, showcasing the emotion she put into her poetry. Another line of her poem, “Leave behind a country better than the one we were left,” has a similar tone to the previous excerpt, as if she is trying to incite hope in the American people for the future.
Gorman fell in love with poetry at a young age and quickly distinguished herself as a rising star. She became Los Angeles’ Youth Poet Laureate in 2014 at age 16 and the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 at age 19. At the beginning of her journey into poetry, Gorman was inspired by both her mother, a single Black mother and teacher, and Malala Yousafzai, who is a female education activist in Pakistan and a Nobel Prize Laureate.
Not only has Gorman inspired young women and girls across the globe, but Gorman is an inspiration for college students, too. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2020 with a degree in sociology and has spoken up in public forums about a broad range of issues, including racism and police brutality, abortion bans in the U.S. and the incarceration of migrant children. Gorman mentioned at the beginning of her poem that she one day wished to become president, presumably to tackle the issues that she has been so actively speaking out against.
By Maggie Barnhill and Hannah Taib, Contributing Writers