Many of those who watched the inauguration of President Biden in January 2021 were blown away and perhaps surprised at the eloquence and posture of Amanda Gorman: the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate. This may have been the first time many of us heard her speak, but she had been writing poetry and racking up accomplishments for many years before: by the age of 18, she had already been chosen as the first youth poet laureate of Los Angeles and published her own book of poetry. Before the age of 20, she started her own nonprofit, signed a new book deal, and performed her poetry at the Library of Congress. Through all of this, Gorman stood firm in her beliefs and focused on the values present in her work from the very beginning. Despite all that she has accomplished, perhaps her biggest impact comes from the ideals she stands for and the inspiration she provides to young girls across the country.
Amanda Gorman grew up in Los Angeles, where her penchant for poetry developed at a young age as the daughter of a middle school teacher. Her journey to becoming an inspirational public figure began in 2013, when she became a United Nations youth delegate. It took just one more year for her to make her biggest breakthrough in the poetry world—being named the first National Youth Poet Laureate—and one more year after that for her to publish her first book of poetry.
Gorman’s success and impact as a poet have not come without challenges: she lives with an auditory processing disorder as someone who had a speech impediment as a child. Instead of letting these challenges deter her from pursuing a field where public speaking can be extremely prevalent, she pushed through them. Now, she views them as one of her strengths and even a formative reason for why she developed into such a sophisticated writer. Gorman explained the role that her disability played in her success, saying it “made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be” by giving her a “certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”
Gorman’s perseverance and talent led her to one of the greatest honors a performer could have: performing their art at the inauguration of the president of the United States. It was at this moment that Gorman fully burst into the spotlight. One of the few poets to perform at a US presidential inauguration (and the youngest of that exclusive group), Gorman performed her new poem “The Hill We Climb.” This was a significant moment not only because of the event itself, but also because the moment embodied the needs of this country in turbulent times. Gorman knew what she wanted to achieve with this poem and set out with determination to accomplish it. Her goal? To inspire the nation to come together in the face of so many challenges.
Though her accomplishments as a poet and speaker may garner Gorman the most attention, she remains a dedicated activist in her words and in her actions. Her poetry focuses on social issues and often includes a call for action for systemic and individual change. The power of poetry—whether spoken or written—is that it can reach a massive audience about complex issues in just a few lines. Apart from just her poetry, Gorman also started her own nonprofit organization called One Pen One Page, which provides free programs in creative writing for underprivileged youth. As a poet, Gorman recognized the importance of literacy for young people and wanted to ensure that everyone had a chance to develop such an important skill.
At just 23 years old, Amanda Gorman has achieved an immense amount as a poet and activist. From becoming a UN delegate to publishing several books and even hosting the Met Gala, her impact can be seen in a myriad of ways. What she is and will be truly known for, however, is the ideals she stands for in whatever she does. Adhering to her beliefs and persisting with calls for action against oppression, she influences—and more importantly, inspires—a new generation of young poets.