WASHINGTON — Her words were inspired by those who came before her: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston Churchill, NPR reported. But it was Amanda Gorman who gave voice to the inspiring poem “The Hill We Climb” that she wrote and later read from the steps of the U.S. Capitol during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration ceremony.
But who is Amanda Gorman?
Gorman is a 22-year-old poet, who, at the age of 18, was named the national youth poet laureate, The New York Times reported.
She is the youngest poet invited to perform at an inaugural ceremony, BBC News reported.
The spotlight could have been overwhelming for her.
Gorman told BBC News she felt “excitement, joy, honor and humility” when she was asked, “and also at the same time terror.”
She was raised in Los Angeles in an area she called, “this incredibly odd intersection in Los Angeles, where it felt like the black ‘hood met black elegance met white gentrification met Latin culture met wetlands,” during an interview with the Times in 2018.
Gorman was inspired when she was in third grade to become a writer when her teacher read to the class Ray Bradbury’s novel, “Dandelion Wine.”
She, like Biden, had speech issues growing up. Biden has spoken often about overcoming his stutter. Gorman was unable to pronounce some sounds growing up, NPR reported. She used writing to express herself, she told NPR.
She also was inspired by the story of Maya Angelou, who was mute when she was a child but was invited to read a poem during President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
“So I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle with a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage in the inauguration,” she told NPR.
She said of her poem shortly before her delivery of it, “I really wanted to use my words to be a point of unity and collaboration and togetherness,” the BBC reported.
The poem will be published as a lyrical picture book. It can be preordered here.
You can read a portion of the poem here.