Los Angeles poet Amanda Gorman will make history on Wednesday when she reads at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The 22-year-old, who was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 and the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate three years later, will now become the youngest inaugural poet in memory, PBS News Hour reported.
“I have kind of stumbled upon this genre. It’s been something I find a lot of emotional reward in, writing something I can make people feel touched by, even if it’s just for a night,” the young poet told PBS.
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The Biden inaugural committee contacted Gorman late last month after she was recommended by the incoming first lady, Jill Biden. Although she hasn't been given specific instructions on what to write, the poet has been encouraged to emphasize unity and hope. The Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol will also influence the poem, but Gorman said she will only "touch" on the event.
“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman said.
While she plans to follow through with a message of unity, Gorman still aims to highlight the harsh reality of the current political climate.
“The poem isn’t blind,” she said. “It isn’t turning your back to the evidence of discord and division.”
In an interview with CNN, the Los Angeles native said Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will "spearhead a new chapter in America, which we so desperately need — one of dignity, and integrity, and hope and unity."
"There's a lot that needs to get done and a lot that needs to be fixed," she said. "And I think that they're the people to do it."
The Black poet is grateful for the chance to take part in the historic moment, which will feature Harris taking the oath of office to become America's first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president.
"The inauguration is a huge step for me to be part of a moment that has such historicity in it," Gorman said. "And for me, just trying to do justice for the moment, trying to do justice to the incredible inaugural poets who've come before me."
The young writer's decorated resume includes a tribute to Black athletes for Nike, a two-book deal with Viking Children’s Books and an appearance on MTV. She has also written for a July 4 celebration featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra and for the inauguration of president Larry Bacow at Harvard University, her alma mater.
Gorman's writing has focused on her Black ancestors, shed light on her own vulnerability and confronted social issues. One of her poems, “In This Place (An American Lyric),” condemns the 2017 racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The poet aims to read at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Another one of her dreams is to serve as the new chief executive at the presidential inauguration in 2037.
“I’m going to tell Biden that I’ll be back,” she said.
Gorman is continuing a tradition that includes celebrated writers such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, who have recited their poems for Democratic presidents.