Amanda Gorman is now the youngest inaugural poet ever.
At just 22, Gorman has made history as the youngest person ever to perform a poem at a presidential inauguration. The poem she recited, entitled “The Hill We Climb,” was a labor of love that was completed only two weeks ago after the domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. Gorman says she struggled to come up with the best message to describe the country’s need to come together in unity.
“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.” She now joins Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Miller Williams on the list of poets who have performed at a presidential inauguration.
Day after day, Gorman would pen a few lines here and there. On Jan. 6, she was almost finished with her inaugural piece, but then the raid on the U.S. Capitol erupted. She stayed up during the night and finished the poem in the midst of the attack, adding references to the raid to her poem. “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,” she wrote.
The Los Angeles native’s writing career began when she was just writing in her journal at the playground of the middle school where her mother taught. At 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She went on to study sociology at Harvard University, and while there, she became the National Youth Poet Laureate. She was the first person to hold the position, the New York Times reports. Her performance at the inauguration was the first time she’d ever performed her poetry before a live, televised audience.