Art, Activism, and Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman captivated the world when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ Jan. 20 Inauguration ceremony. Last Sunday, she became the first poet ever to perform for the Super Bowl. Gorman, at age 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at 16 years old in 2014 and just three years later the first national youth poet laureate.Following the path of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost, Gorman became the youngest poet to compose and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration.

The first lady, Jill Biden, is a fan of her work and convinced the inaugural committee that Gorman would be a perfect fit. To many, Amanda Gorman is paving the way for the next generation of artists and giving hope to many across nations.

Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool

Mrs. Gardiner, English teacher here at Apopka, gave her students the task of rhetorically analyzing Gorman’s poem through her experienced writing techniques and devices. She began the assignment by first asking her students one question: “why her, why now?”

Credit: Awol Erizku for TIME

In an age of fleeting creative passion, Gorman represents the excitement about expressing your voice, especially to young Black and brown girls. She “represents a dream that any young lady who looks, feels, or acts like her can now aspire to have as well,” Mrs. Gardiner reflects. An inspiration to the “young, powerful, intelligent and creative new faces” intently watching Gorman and others alike in their formative years.

Mrs. Gardiner always makes a point to tell her students, “good writing doesn’t happen by accident.” Gorman’s poem was exactly how to prove that to her students.

Unknown to many, Amanda Gorman lives with a speech impediment. Gorman sometimes struggles to make sounds most people take for granted like the letter ‘R’. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Gorman opened up about the potential anxiety surrounding the quality of her work. She mentioned grappling “this other echelon of pressure, which is: Can I say that which needs to be said?” The girl who had difficulty pronouncing poetry as “poetwy” would one day grow up to perform in front of Barack Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai.

Junior Bella Ramos finds solace in this aspect of her. “It reminds me that no one is 100% perfect… even Amanda was not born a perfect public speaker just how I wasn’t.”

Credit: Associated Press, USA Today

“But I don’t look at my disability as a weakness,” Gorman adds in her interview with LA Times. “It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”

Majoring in sociology at Harvard, Gorman has publicly spoken about a large range of social issues, from racism and police brutality; the bans of abortion in the U.S.; and the detention of child migrants. She has also announced her intention to run for president in 2036. Many of us can hope to one day live in a country under the leadership of a figure like Gorman.

“Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change”