Amanda Gorman, a 22-year old Black woman from Los Angeles, California, has made United States history, becoming the youngest poet to perform at an inaugural ceremony.
Gorman took the stage on Jan. 20 shortly after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were formally sworn into office and delivered “The Hill We Climb” — an original composition that made references to the Bible, “Hamilton” and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The poet said that she looked up speeches from Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King while writing her poem, but drew the most inspiration from the riots that previously took place at Capitol Hill.
“On the Wednesday in which we saw the insurrection at the Capitol, that was the day that the poem really came to life. And I really put pedal to the metal,” she said on “CBS This Morning.”
As Gorman recited her piece at the inauguration, she said, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed. It can never be permanently defeated.”
“I wanted it to be a message of hope and unity. And I think that Wednesday for me really just underscored how much that was needed,” she told CBS of her poem. “But to not turn a blind eye to the cracks that really need to be filled.”
Gorman has a speech impediment, but she turned to music and writing to help her fight it. Her work has earned her recognition as the nation’s First Youth Poet Laureate, Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and now, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” Oprah Winfrey tweeted after Gorman’s performance. Michelle Obama wrote, “With her strong and poignant words, @TheAmandaGorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can’t wait to see what you do next. #BlackGirlMagic.”
Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda also reacted saying, “YES @TheAmandaGorman!!!” to which the poet replied, “Thx @Lin_Manuel! Did you catch the 2 @HamiltonMusical references in the inaugural poem? I couldn’t help myself!”