Young Poet Rises as She Raises the Nation


Image of Amanda Gorman Reciting at the Inauguration from Politico

On January 19th, Amanda Gorman went to sleep with 10 thousand followers on Instagram: on January 21st, she woke up to 2.3 million followers. The words this Youth Poet Laureate spoke at Biden’s Inauguration Ceremony resonated with the nation and will hold President Biden accountable for the promises he has made. These were words necessary to hear at the beginning of a new presidency calling for change and more equality. 

Amanda Gorman, 22 and the youngest Inaugural Poet in history, was the star of the Inauguration on January 20, 2021. She recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” in front of a live audience of prominent politicians and celebrities,including the Obamas, Clintons, Bidens, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

According to BBC, Gorman grew up in California with her single mother, Joan Wicks. Similarly to Biden, Gorman grew up with a speech impediment, and she says that her disability allowed her to understand and appreciate the way words sound. At the age of 16 she became Los Angeles’ Youth Poet Laureate. After graduation, she attended Harvard University where she studied sociology and became a national Youth Poet Laureate. She has published two books The one for Whom Food is Not Enough in 2015 and Change Sings this year. Both of these books are selling out quickly. 

Her speech was only 5 minutes long but had an incredible effect on the nation. Her speech was about facing the reality that America isn’t perfect, but at the same time, America is not broken. Her speech spoke out about the violence and injustice in the United States, but she did so in an optimistic manner. One of her notable lines summarizes that idea very well. She explains, “We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.” In this line she explains her own experiences as an African American girl. She also speaks about finding change through unity and peace: “If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.”

Her speech represents a dramatic shift away from the past president towards a new president. It is a hope that under President Biden, more people’s voices will be heard. Prior inaugural poets have been Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, and Elizabeth Alexander. After speaking to millions of people, Amanda Gorman ranks amongst these famous poets.

According to NPR, Amanda finished the poem during the attacks on the Capitol, so to her, the speech means shifting away from the past towards a more egalitarian and just society under Biden. She recited this speech in hopes that it would remind the President of his promised change and to hold him accountable for the promises he made. According to The New York Times, when asked what effect she wanted to have through her speech, she said, “[to]use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal.”


One of her biggest role models, Lin Manuel Miranda, even noticed her speech and sent her a congratulatory tweet. In her speech, she included two references to the musical Hamilton, which was written by Miranda. Her references where she referenced the Hamilton song, “History has its eyes on you: “For while we have our eyes on the future/ history has its eyes on us” and when she quoted George Washington in Hamilton who said “Everyone shall sit under their own vine, and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.”



Gorman’s speech was not only beautifully written and spoken, but also had brilliant ideas and an optimistic tone that can turn a nation who is torn apart towards unity under the newly elected president. If her speech is an indication of what the next four years will be like, all Americans can look towards a more egalitarian and united nation.