Amanda Gorman stole the show at Biden's inauguration: Meet the 22-year-old poet laureate who gave a historic 5-minute speech that's gone viral

poet inauguration Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman speaking at President Joe Biden's inauguration. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Amanda Gorman performed her work "The Hill We Climb" after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' swearing-in ceremony.

  • Gorman, 22, became the youngest inaugural poet in history.

  • "While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated," Gorman said.

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Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old national youth poet laureate, stole the show at the inauguration on Wednesday.

Following President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' swearing-in ceremony, Gorman read her poem "The Hill We Climb."

Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet. In 2017, she was named the first national youth poet laureate.

Biden, only the fourth American president to have a poet read at his inauguration, and Gorman both have a speech impediment.

"For me, that takes a lot of energy and work," Gorman told The New York Times of practicing her reading. "The writing process is its own excruciating form, but as someone with a speech impediment, speaking in front of millions of people presents its own type of terror."

The poet received applause and heaping praise on social media after her reading. In her poem, she discussed the country's fragile state during the COVID-19 crisis and in the weeks after the insurrection at the Capitol.

Gorman's work paid homage to Maya Angelou, who read at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Gorman ended her poem telling listeners that Americans would emerge from the political and social challenges "battered and beautiful."

"We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover," Gorman said.

Oprah Winfrey, Stacey Abrams, and Lin-Manuel Miranda praised Gorman's poem. The poet's Twitter account had gained nearly 100,000 followers 10 minutes after her performance, The Hill's Reid Wilson reported.

Who is Amanda Gorman?

Gorman, a Los Angeles native, is the daughter of a middle-school teacher and single mother. She attended the New Roads School, which the Los Angeles Times described as a "socioeconomically diverse private school."

She told the Los Angeles Times that her interest in poetry was piqued in the third grade after hearing Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine." Gorman also said her poetry was inspired by a speech that the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who's one year older than her, gave in 2013.

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Gorman published her first poetry collection, "The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough," in 2015.

In 2017, when Gorman was 19, various arts programs including the Academy of American Poets and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities named her the national youth poet laureate.

Gorman is a sophomore at Harvard University, where she studies sociology.

Gorman told The New York Times in 2017 that Americans could expect her on the ballot in 2036.

"This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States," she said. "So you can put that in your iCloud calendar."

She doesn't yet have a driver's license, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Read a transcription of Gorman's poem:

(Grammar, structure, and exact wording might differ from the poet's written version.)

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans, and the world:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We've braved the belly of the beast. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace and the norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it, somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn't mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried.

That we'll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.

If we're to live up to our own time, then victory won't lie in the blade but in all of the bridges we've made. That is the promise to Glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare. It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it's the past we step into and how we repair it.

We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption. We feared in its inception, we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked 'How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?' now we assert: How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce, and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens, but one thing is certain: If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children's birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath of my bronze, pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise through the golden hills of the West. We will rise from the windswept Northeast, where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there was always light if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it.

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