Amanda Gorman Inspires Many

Amanda Gorman Inspires Many

Gorman grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her love for her work began with her mother, who was a middle school teacher. Gorman and her twin sister would spend their free time at the Los Angeles Public Library. Gorman’s first introduction to poetry began when she read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine in her third-grade class,

“There was some line about candy and I opened my eyes and said, ‘That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard and I wanted to spend the rest of my life finding out why,” Gorman recalls.

Growing up, Gorman and her twin sister were diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder, causing a speech impediment. From kindergarten to her senior year of high school, she attended New Roads, a private school in Santa Monica that fostered her growth through her auditory processing disorder. New Roads encouraged Gorman to practice spoken word poetry, where Gorman overcame her speech impediment, building confidence within herself through her voice. In 2014, Gorman became the inaugural youth poet laureate for Los Angeles and won the award on a national level in 2017. These awards helped Gorman graduate high school and go on to attend Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.

During her time at Harvard, Gorman became Glamour magazine’s college woman of the year, honoring her work and recognition within spoken word poetry. She graduated from Harvard University as a summa cum laude student with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, where she integrated her education into her artwork. 

On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman presented a moving spoken word poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. As the event took place just weeks after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Gorman acknowledged the threat to American democracy by criticizing the event as “a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.” The youngest inaugural poet, Gorman’s words reminded, hoped, and inspired.

Soon after the inauguration, her poem was released as a book and it became widely popular, even making its way into schools. Gorman’s voice held strong in the face of criticism she faced from a Florida elementary school parent. By the request of one parent in Miami Lakes, Florida, the school censored Gorman’s book, The Hill We Climb from elementary students. In the request, the parent asked for the book to be removed from the total school environment under the pretense that it contained “hate messages” and “indoctrinated” students. The parent who made the request falsely stated that the book was written by Oprah Winfrey, further demonstrating the erroneousness of the claim. Yet, while the book was not banned completely from the district, it was censored from the elementary school. 

Gorman was quick to respond, calling out the fact that most censored books are by queer and non-white authors, exemplifying a clear effort to eliminate diverse perspectives from school libraries. Speaking out about the impact of the school’s decision, Gorman said that she “wrote The Hill We Climb so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment.” By “robbing children of their chance to find their voices in literature”, the school “violated [the students’] right to free thought and free speech.” This powerful criticism exemplifies Gorman’s determined nature and her unwavering willingness to stand up to ensure all people can freely express themselves. 

Unlike many other prominent Black activists, Amanda Gorman only recently gained popularity for her poetry. Although many historical figures like MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks inevitably faced backlash for their protests throughout the 60s, now the media praises them as figureheads of the Civil Rights Movement – there is just a single story being told about their legacy. However, with the advent of social media and the recency of her activism, there are many vocal individuals with opinions of Gorman, so there are many different stories. Since Gorman criticized the storming of the Capitol, many Trump-supporting commentators portray Gorman negatively whereas more liberal personalities like Oprah applaud her stance. On Twitter, Oprah said she has “never been prouder to see another young woman rise” when referring to Gorman’s accomplishments, adding that “Maya Angelou is cheering, and so [is she]” (X).  Oprah not only expressed her support for Gorman through Twitter, but she also invited her on The Oprah Conversation to discuss her poetry further. On CNN, Anderson Cooper, who garners millions of viewers, invited Gorman for a segment, to which he told her, “wow, you’re awesome” (Spangler). 

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, on the other hand, tweeted that “Amanda Gorman is the women’s soccer of poetry. Her work is bad and boring but we pretend occasional enthusiasm because virtue signaling” (X). Shapiro, a Trump supporter, insulted Gorman’s work to his 6.5 million Twitter followers, likely altering their opinions of Gorman’s poetry. In the media, Gorman is depicted as a talented wordsmith and an overrated amateur, depending on which side portrays her. 

  “It’s quite easy when you turn on the news to see a world that is vengeful and scarred and poisoned,” Gorman says, “that’s what gets the shares, the headlines. … But as much evil as I see, there is far more good.

 just have to make myself willing and open to seeing it.” That willingness, she explains, is what inspired the last line of her inaugural poem: “For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Gorman has suffered many obstacles like racism and sexism, but she has shone before Congress, the President, and most importantly, the people of the United States.

 The people have given both negative and positive responses to her speech. Journalist Madeleine Malinka for Horizon Online, the Lynbrook, NY High School newspaper quotes a sophomore named Alyssa Inserra, stating that “Amanda Gorman has inspired me to continue to write with emotion and has introduced me to new ways of sophisticating my writing and delivery of poetry.” Gorman has truly had a positive influence on young poets across the US, showing them anything is possible and that their voices can be heard. 

Although her poem has fueled inspiration, it has also triggered a racist reaction among conservatives. In fact, the parent behind the ban on “The Hill We Climb ” Daily Salinas, has outwardly stated her opposition toward Gorman and tweeted anti-Semitic content. Salinas has been featured in many pictures of events like Proud Boys which as Maya Yang from The Guardian says that she was photographed with Enrique Tarrio, described as the “far-right group’s neo-fascist leader who was found guilty of seditious conspiracy last month.” While Amanda Gorman has been hit hard and unjustly judged, she has picked herself back up and continues to be an inspiration to young aspiring poets today.

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Miwako Miki
Miwako Miki, Arts & Entertainment Editor
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Lili Bazargan, News Editor
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Olivia Lane, Opinions Editor
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