Gorman, 22, became the youngest poet to speak at a presidential inauguration.

By Nick Romano
January 20, 2021 at 01:29 PM EST
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At 22 years old, Los Angeleno Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet on Wednesday when she read an original composition for Joe Biden's presidential inauguration.

Titled "The Hill We Climb," Gorman's words complimented the tone of what Biden preached during his own speech: moving forward as a united nation.

"When day comes we ask ourselves, 'where can we find light in this never-ending shade?'" she began. "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 the 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 being president only to find herself reciting for one, we are striving to form a 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."

Gorman was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at the age of 16 in 2014. Three years later in 2017, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate. Gorman now follows in the footsteps of poets like Robert Frost, who recited "The Gift Outright" for John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961; Maya Angelou, who recited "On the Pulse of Morning" for Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993; and Elizabeth Alexander, who recited "Praise Song for the Day" at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

According to CBS News' Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey provided Gorman with earrings, as well as the ring, which is in the shape of a caged bird as a nod to Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

"It was really daunting to begin the poem because you don't even really know the entry point in which to step into the murk," she told NPR in an interview ahead of Inauguration Day.

"We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy," her poem reads, in part. "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."

"History has its eyes on us" is one of two references to Hamilton that Gorman included in the poem. The other invoked the "everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree" line sung by George Washington in "One Last Time," about the first president introducing the peaceful transfer of power. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, praised Gorman for the tribute. "You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it," he tweeted. "Brava!"

"We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one," Gorman recited. "We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west. We will rise from the wind-swept 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."

Watch Gorman's full reading in the video above.

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