By Marley Meltzer
New York City, New York
22-year-old Amanda Gorman has made history as the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate and has recently gained significant recognition after reading her original poem The Hill We Climb at the 2021 Biden-Harris Presidential Inauguration. Gorman is an accomplished author, activist and graduate of Harvard University with a major in sociology.
Gorman was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 7, 1998 to an African American family. She was raised by her mother, Joan Wicks, a 6th-grade teacher in Watts, California. She has two siblings, including her twin sister, Gabrielle. Gorman and her two siblings were raised in a household where television was restricted and where reading and writing were at the forefront of their family values. From kindergarten to twelfth grade, Amanda Gorman attended New Roads, a private school in Santa Monica. In her senior year of high school, she was a recipient of the Milken Family Foundation college scholarship and matriculated to Harvard University upon her graduation from high school in the fall of 2016.
Gorman has an auditory processing disorder and had a speech impediment throughout her early childhood. She attended speech therapy and received assistance for her conditions. Though she previously was frustrated and disheartened by her challenges, initially refusing the academic accommodations she was offered, she soon grew to appreciate the help provided. Gorman does not view her challenges as weaknesses and instead, considers them to make her “the performer and storyteller” she strives to be.
As a high schooler and college student, Gorman avidly engaged in activism and liberal arts-related activities. Her notable accomplishments in high school were becoming a Youth Delegate for the United Nations in 2013; being chosen as the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014; publishing a poetry book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015 and founding the non-profit organization One Pen One Page, a program dedicated to youth writing and leadership, in 2016. She became the first person in history to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017 during her freshman year of college.
Gorman’s work is centered around issues of oppression, race, feminism and African heritage. Gorman also has a strong interest in government and has said multiple times that she intends to run for president in 2036. Prominent political figures, such as Secretary Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, have shown support for Gorman; Clinton expressed her support for Gorman’s ambition to run for president via Twitter in 2017 and Obama interviewed her on behalf of TIME magazine. Gorman’s recent reading of The Hill We Climb at the 2021 Biden-Harris inauguration amassed tremendous media coverage and adoration worldwide. She also read a poem at the Super Bowl.