Amanda Gorman: The Power of Poetry

“Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” That is the question poet Amanda Gorman asked the presidential inauguration audience at the beginning of her powerful poem The Hill We Climb. The 22-year-old seemingly soared into the public eye in less than 10 minutes. Before Jan. 20, she was known by some as the first National Youth Poet Laureate; shortly after the inauguration ended, she found herself with international admiration.  

The youngest person to ever read at a presidential inauguration, Dr. Jill Biden recommended Gorman recite a poem at the event. She delivered her original poem The Hill We Climb, which speaks of hope for the future. While Gorman acknowledges the harsh truths of America today, she sends a message of reconciliation and unity that is truly moving. 

Born in Los Angeles to a single mother, Gorman grew up with her twin sister, Gabrielle. She studied sociology at Harvard and graduated cum laude in 2020. Recitation at the inauguration is not the first time she’s delivered an original poem in front of an audience. A writer from a young age, Gorman received invitations to perform on several occasions at the White House during Obama’s presidency and has spoken at events at the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Center. CBS This Morning has also commissioned Gorman to write several poems that she recited on the show.

youth poet laureate amanda gorman reading at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration ABC / Youtube

Gorman has written several poetry books, the first published in 2015 when she was just 16 years old, titled The One for Whom Food is Not Enough. This year alone, she has three books set to be released. A book version of her inaugural poem — with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey — is set to be published March 30 by Penguin Random House. She plans to release her other two books — the poetry collection entitled The Hill We Climb and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem — sometime in September. 

Gorman also appeared on the cover of TIME magazine’s February 2021 issue, which also features an interview between her and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

When asked if she ever thought about social justice movements while she was writing, Gorman replied, “Absolutely. Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change.” 

After her performance at the inauguration, the NFL commissioned Gorman to write and recite a poem as part of the pregame ceremony of Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7. The first poet to ever recite a piece at a Super Bowl, Gorman performed Chorus of the Captains just before the coin toss. Her poem introduced three honorary guests to the audience — James Martin, Trimaine Davis and Suzie Dorner — and celebrated their roles as essential workers. Gorman delivered the poem in honor of the three, who would then go on to preside over the coin toss that would start the game. 

As far as future plans go, Gorman says she aims to run for president in 2036 — the first year she’s old enough to hold office.