Who is the Youngest Inaugural Poet In U.S. History? Amanda Gorman.

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Seven Clark, Writer/Editor

“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.” This powerful line that accurately describes the current United States, where unity in the country is so sorely needed, comes from the inaugural poem titled The Hill We Climb. It was written and performed by Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate for the United States. At 22, Gorman is the youngest person to ever recite a poem for an inauguration, following in the footsteps of legendary poets Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. Says Sam Nobile ‘21, “The fact that she was 22 and managed to write this immensely good and meaningful poetry surprised me. She has such a way with words and to be so young and doing a poem for the President’s inauguration is a huge achievement, for sure. Her presence was very powerful and the way she used her hands to emphasize words as she spoke them really made the poetry come alive for me.” 

But who is Amanda Gorman? Turns out that Gorman, who was born in Los Angeles in 1998 and raised with her two siblings (one is her twin) by her mother, a teacher, has quite a list of accomplishments for someone in her early twenties. These accomplishments include becoming a youth delegate for the United Nations in 2013, being chosen as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 and publishing her first book of poetry in 2015. In 2016, she founded the nonprofit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program. She was subsequently named the National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 while attending Harvard University, from which she graduated cum laude. 

Gorman has succeeded in doing all these things even with an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment. “I don’t look at my disability as a weakness,” she says. “It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller I strive to be.” Her art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization. Because of this, the message in her inaugural composition doesn’t gloss over events as recent as January 6. “America is messy,” she told The Los Angeles Times. ”It’s still in its early development all that we can become.” 

Gorman’s poem elicited a wide range of responses. Some were very positive, such as Deen Chaudri ‘22, who notes, “I felt as though the poem did a perfect job of summing up what a lot of Americans are feeling right now. A lot of Americans are hurting from the actions of our previous presidency and, though a little precautious, are optimistic for this new one.” For some the poem held out too much hope, like for Julian Cronin ’21, who adds, “I think it is very well written, and Gorman is clearly a very thoughtful and talented person. However, I think a lot of the sentiment she expresses isn’t going to realize itself in the near future.” 

As if all of her accomplishments to date weren’t sufficient, Gorman says she plans to run for president when she is old enough, in 2036.