Amanda Gorman, 23, is no ordinary fresh grad. After performing at President Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20,2021 — a privilege bestowed on a very select few, the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou — she has stolen the hearts of her nation, and dare we say, around the world with her moving poem titled “The Hill We Climb.”
Her success is no small feat. In five minutes, her poem sparked hope and inspiration for a country divided, one still healing from political insurrection and scrambling against a pandemic:
“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.”
It wasn’t long before her book shot to the first and second spot on Amazon. Praises rained in, from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. The New York Times called her rendition a “tour de force.” Followers on her Twitter account are now close to one million. The question on everyone’s mind now is “Who is Amanda Gorman?” What were the forces that came to shape this rising talent whose words stole the show at one of the most abnormal inaugurations to date? Below we take a deeper dive into the award-winning activist’s life, education and achievements:
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Amanda Gorman was raised by her mother, an English teacher who encouraged her to start writing when she was only a few years of age. She had a speech impediment as a child, and would oftentimes describe herself as the oddball who enjoyed writing and reading.
“I don’t look at my disability as a weakness,” she told LA Times. “It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”
Gorman attended New Roads, a private K-12 school in Santa Monica which is a school that encourages and promotes diversity in its students to the staff. As a senior, she then received a Milken Family Foundation college scholarship and went on to study sociology at Harvard University.
During her time at Harvard University, she became the first ever person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017. She graduated in 2020.
Oh how @TheAmandaGorman shined today! She was incredible! A brilliant Harvard Sociology grad I even had the privilege to teach in class a few years ago ⭐️ 🌠 Congratulations, Amanda! https://t.co/G3A8ZiCMuC
— Brianna Castro (@briblu) January 21, 2021
“A perfect start to a new political era. I had the privilege of teaching & advising Amanda at Harvard & she never ceases to impress me. A brilliant & supremely talented poet, who has already achieved so much—and she’s just getting started. So proud of you, @TheAmandaGorman!” tweeted Bart Bonikowski, a former associate professor of sociology at Harvard University.
Experience and awards
Gorman earned the title of National Youth Poet Laureate for her body of work that focused on oppression, feminism, race and marginalisation. One of her earlier works was a poetry book “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough” in 2015. Her works have won her invites to the Obama White House, as well as to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, among several others. She has also performed many commissioned poems for news programme CBS This Morning and has spoken at events across the US.
Her accolades include a Genius Grant from OZY Media, the College Women of the Year Awards by Glamour Magazine, and the Webby Awards. She also helped write the campaign for Nike’s 2020 Black History Month, and is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award.