WATCH: Amanda Gorman Just Became the Youngest Person to Deliver a Poem at an Inauguration
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It's not often that poets make history. But yesterday, in honoring President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at their Inauguration ceremony, a 22-year-old poet laureate graced the podium at the Capitol and did just that.
Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to read at an inauguration ceremony in American history. In an impassioned poem titled The Hill We Climb, Gorman called for unity and moving forward as a nation under Biden — while standing beside the Capitol building that just two weeks earlier had been the scene of such disturbing, destructive behavior.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it.
The poem begins:
"When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? / The loss we carry, a sea we must wade / We've braved the belly of the beast / We've learned that quiet isn't always peace / And the norms and notions of what just is / Isn’t always just-ice / And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it / Somehow we do it /Somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished."
She goes on to implore listeners to "leave behind a country better than the one we were left with" and insists: "We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover and every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful / When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame, and unafraid / The new dawn blooms as we free it / For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it."
Gorman, who wrote the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015, was previously honored in 2017 as the United States of America's first National Youth Poet Laureate at just 19 years old. Her work is partially autobiographical, sociological, and historical.
The Harvard University graduate was selected to speak at the inauguration by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who contacted her last month about writing an original piece. Dr. Biden had been reportedly touched by the poet's reading of In This Place: An American Lyric, delivered at the Library of Congress in 2017, as per Vogue.
Notably, Gorman has something specific in common with President Biden: They both have a speech impediment. Unlike Biden, who has been open about his struggle with stuttering, Gorman has grappled with certain letters of the alphabet — particularly the letter R.
"I'd want to say, 'Girls can change the world,' but I cannot say so many letters in that statement, so I'd say things like 'Young women can shape the globe,' " she explained to NPR this week.
Last week, she told the New York Times about what her preparation for her inaugural address has been like in tandem with her impediment. “For me, that takes a lot of energy and work,” she told the publication. “The writing process is its own excruciating form, but as someone with a speech impediment, speaking in front of millions of people presents its own type of terror.”
Luckily, Gorman had no reason to worry: Her breathtaking performance captivated millions and has racked up loads of positive responses on social media.