Presented By National Geographic Genius: Aretha
Name: Amanda Gorman
Title: National Youth Poet Laureate
SpeakHer Greatness: Amanda Gorman made history in January when she became the youngest inaugural poet ever in the United States. First Lady Jill Biden invited the Los Angeles native to speak at the event after hearing her do a reading at the Library of Congress. In other words, Amanda Gorman was already making extraordinary strides in life before she shot to fame at the inaugural ceremony.
The 22-year-old began writing as a small child and has performed multiple commissioned poems for CBS This Morning, and for the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, and more. She has also spoken at venues across the country, received multiple grants for her genius with words, and is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. She is also the youngest board member of 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the United States.
Gorman exhibits an incredible amount of poise when she speaks, but she wasn’t always confident due to a speech and auditory processing disorder that made it hard for her to pronounce and hear certain sounds. However, it was writing that proved to be a powerful tool in helping the young prodigy overcome her struggles.
“I used writing one as a form of self-expression to get my word on the page but then it also metamorphosed into its own speech pathology,” she explained to CNBC in January. “So the more that I recited out loud, the more in which I practiced spoken word and that tradition, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these letters which for so long had been my greatest impediment.”
Gorman is in good company with Joe Biden and also the late Maya Angelou — who also read a poem at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993 — as they’ve all overcome speech challenges.
There are no limits for Gorman, who has learned to embrace her inner light and inspires the world with her gifts as well. She reminded all of us to be great in her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”: “There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
If only we all were so brave and tenacious as Gorman.
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