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Who Is Amanda Gorman? By Rhea Sethi

A young woman of African heritage, just 22 years old, stands facing millions of people with bated breath at the Capitol Hill. Her feet plant the ground with her head held high as she begins to recite a sensational poem that will bring warmth to even the coldest of hearts.You’ve probably heard of this woman. Her name is Amanda Gorman. She is the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate and she stole the show at President Biden’s inauguration. We all know about Gorman’s amazing work in poetry but who is she really? Read on to find out!

First off, Gorman is from Los Angeles; that’s right, she was born in LA! Gorman was raised by a single mother named Joan Wicks who is a English teacher at an inner city public school. “Having a mom who is a teacher had a huge impact on me,” Gorman stated, who was a witness to the amazing effect her mother had on students. 

Gorman’s love for writing didn’t quite start because of her mother, though of course Wicks was a huge part of it. Gorman has been in love with poetry ever since at least the 3rd grade, when her teacher read a poem by Ray Bradbury named “Dandelion Wine” to her class.  Gorman can’t recollect which metaphor started the spark for the art of writing in her but she fell in love with it immediately. 

Wicks inspired Gorman to start a nonprofit called One Pen One Page whose mission is to empower kids to use their voice and speak up for themselves. OPOP also strives towards making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity of education. 

 Of course like many of us, Gorman has a person who she looks up to. That person is Maya Angelou, the poet who recited a stunning poem (called On the Pulse of the Morning) at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Fun fact: As a tribute to Angelou, Gorman wore a ring with a caged bird to represent Angelou’s famous poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The icing on the cake? Oprah, another huge inspiration for Gorman, gifted her that very ring!

Even though Gorman is the author of spectacular writing, she is still gaining confidence when it comes to speaking in public. Just like her role model Angelou, Gorman struggles with a speech impediment. A speech impediment is when clear and correct speech is disrupted. It impacts a person’s ability to speak fluently. The disruption can be stuttering, inability to say certain sounds, lisping and more. “All writers,” she announced, “experience anxiety about the quality of their work. But for me, there was this other echelon of pressure, which is: Can I say that which needs to be said?” The girl who performed for numerous politicians, celebrities and more struggles with saying certain sounds that many of us don’t even give a thought to. Gorman didn’t let that stop her, though. She perseveres to make sure she doesn’t slip up. 

“I don’t look at my disability as a weakness,” the poet proclaimed. “It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.” I believe that Gorman will keep on working hard to learn from her speech impediment and overcome it.

Gorman “has her eyes on the future” as she plans to run for president in 2036, (the first year she will be eligible since she will be 37 then). One of her lines in “The Hill We Climb” even states “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and can dream of becoming president,” that was not hypothetical. In fact, Gorman would often introduce herself to people by saying “Hi there, I am Amanda Gorman and I will be your president in 2036!” It’s true! Witnessing Vice President Kamala Harris be sworn into office has certainly fueled Gorman to reach her goal.“There’s no denying that a victory for her is a victory for all of us who would like to see ourselves represented as women of color in office,” Vice President Harris said. “It makes it more imaginable. Once little girls can see it, little girls can be it. Because they can be anything that they want, but that representation to make the dream exist in the first place is huge — even for me.” I personally agree with Vice President Harris’ opinion. The future certainly looks bright with Amanda Gorman as a part of it!

In her free time Gorman enjoys binge watching The Great British Baking Show . When she’s not doing that she’s reading books to help prepare for her future goal of presidency including A Promised Land by Former President Obama, (she picked up that book the day it came out). She’s also reading Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot.

Speaking of books, Gorman is in the process of writing her own with #1 New York Times Bestselling Illustrator Loren Long. The book is a children’s book named Change Sings which is expected to be coming out on September 21, 2021. Change Sings is a lyrical picture book about a girl who leads characters through a musical journey as they learn that they can make a change in the world, most importantly in themselves. It definitely sounds like a great read. I don’t know about you but I plan on catching it when it comes out!

Without a doubt, Gorman has shined a light for many of us, she continues to amaze us with every word that flows from her and she’s only just started.

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