A 22-year-old Los Angeles woman became the youngest inaugural poet when she performed “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’ and Vice President Kamala Harris’ swearing-in ceremony, on Wednesday, Jan 20.
Amanda Gorman’s reading was bookended by a rendition of the national anthem by Lady Gaga and a musical performance by Jennifer Lopez.
Gorman, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, turned to writing from an early age in an attempt to cope with her speech impediment. At age 14, she joined WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that helps teen girls discover the power of their voice through creative writing.
Throughout her high school years at New Roads School in Santa Monica, Gorman attended WriteGirl’s monthly creative writing workshops and was matched with writing mentors for one-on-one mentoring.
“WriteGirl has been pivotal in my life,” Gorman said. “It’s been thanks to their support that I’ve been able to chase my dreams as a writer.”
WriteGirl Executive Director Keren Taylor said she had “no doubt Amanda’s messages of hope, unity and justice will help us all heal and move forward.”
Gorman was selected in 2014 as the first Los Angeles youth poet laureate and in 2017 as the first national youth poet laureate. She graduated in May from Harvard University with a degree in sociology.
Gorman has two books forthcoming, including her first children’s book,“Change Sings,” set to be published in September.
Gorman becomes the sixth poet to perform at a presidential inauguration, continuing an intermittent tradition began in 1961 when Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. The previous youngest was Richard Blanco, who was 44 when he read “One Today” at Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
All the inaugural poets have performed at the swearings-in of Democratic presidents.
The inauguration of Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. PST. The ceremony will feature vigorous health and safety protocols intended to protect public health, including face-coverings and social distancing.
The public was strongly encouraged to refrain from traveling to Washington, D.C. Various inaugural events were converted to virtual events, including the “Parade Across America,” billed by the inaugural committee as featuring diverse, dynamic performances in communities in all 56 states and territories, celebrating America’s heroes, and highlighting the diversity, heritage and resilience of the nation.
The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles will be among the parade participants as part of DJ Cassidy’s “Pass The Mic,” also featured Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers and Kathy Sledge.
The chorus was formed in 2015. It describes itself as the nation’s first all trans-identified chorus, consisting of transgender, non-binary, intersex, gender-non-conforming and gender-fluid individuals.
The parade was hosted by actor, director and producer Tony Goldwyn. Other participants include comedian Jon Stewart, the alternative rock band New Radicals, performing together for the first time since 1999, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and Olympians Allyson Felix, Katie Ledecky and Nathan Chen.
Amanda Gorman (File Photo)