A girl in a yellow jacket passionately receiting a poem to an audience
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

8 Things to Know About Amanda Gorman

The youngest inaugural poet in American history

By Mackenzie Carro
From the Issue

(Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

On Wednesday, January 20, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. At the inaugural ceremony, Amanda Gorman, 22, recited a poem that she wrote called “The Hill We Climb.” Since then, a video of her powerful performance has gone viral, and people all over the world have been talking about her inspiring message of unity, hope, and change.  

Here are eight things to know about this inspiring young poet. 

1. At age 22, Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in American history.

Inviting a poet to perform at the inaugural ceremony is a tradition that began with President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Since then, three other presidents have invited poets to speak at their inaugurations. Past inaugural poets include Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

2. She has a speech impediment.

Gorman has a speech impediment that makes it hard to pronounce certain letters of the alphabet, especially the letter r. As a kid, she began writing poetry as a way to find her voice. When she reached high school, she started reciting her poetry out loud to help her improve her speech. She says singing songs from one of her favorite musicals, Hamilton!, also helped. (There are even two Hamilton! references in her inaugural poem.)

(Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Redux)

Amanda Gorman, who at 22 is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, reads her poem during the ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, on January 20, 2021. Gorman, who is from Los Angeles, was brought to the Inaugural Committee’s attention by Jill Biden, the first lady, who saw Gorman recite one of her poems at the Library of Congress. 

3. She did a lot of research before writing her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

Gorman studied speeches of past leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Winston Churchill. In an interview with NPR, she said she studied these speeches to learn more about how words can be “used for good.” She also sought advice from two past inaugural poets: Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco.

4. In 2017, she was named the nation’s first ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

A National Youth Poet Laureate is the winner of a national competition that recognizes young poets for their talent and social impact of their work. As a poet laureate, Gorman recited her poems at the Library of Congress, at special events, and on television programs.

For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it—if only we’re brave enough to be it. —“The Hill We Climb,” by Amanda Gorman

5. She wrote a children’s book called Change Sings.

This book, along with a book of her poetry called The Hill We Climb, is set to debut in September 2021.

6. She’s an activist.

Many of Gorman’s poems address important issues, such as racism and gender equality. Gorman believes that poetry can be a tool used for change. In an interview with The New York Times, she said, “Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.”

(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages) via AP Images

Amanda Gorman speaks at Porter’s Third Annual Incredible Women Gala with Universal Pictures Chairman, Donna Langley in association with Estée Lauder and in honor of Vital Voices on Tuesday October 9, 2018 at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, CA. 

7. She is the recipient of several awards from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

In 2015 and 2016, Gorman won several regional awards in the competition. In 2016, she won the national Silver Medal for novel writing. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were founded in 1923 and have honored and showcased the talent and creativity of teens across the country ever since.

8. She wants to be president one day.

In 2017, Gorman told The New York Times that she had a long-term plan of running for president in 2036. The idea came from a conversation with a teacher. When asked recently on Good Morning America if she still planned to run, she replied, “Heck yeah!” She included this goal in her inaugural poem. See if you can find it!

Ideas for teaching about Amanda Gorman and “The Hill We Climb”

Introduce the poet and the poem.

Discuss the poem.

Extension Ideas