During yesterday’s presidential inauguration ceremony, the nation’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (the youngest, at 22 years old, to ever be selected as the inaugural poet), recited her poem "The Hill We Climb" after President Joe Biden was sworn in. The recitation was just over five minutes long and highlighted disrupting the status quo in the name of change, how to achieve unity and the tenacity of the country’s people, all recited in Gorman’s pristine enunciation with fervor.
What might be surprising, though, is that Gorman’s flawless dictation didn’t always come easy to her. During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Gorman revealed that up until a few years ago, she struggled with a speech impediment, experiencing particular difficulty with R sounds.
This, Gorman shares with former inaugural poet Maya Angelou and President Joe Biden; the newly-inaugurated Commander-in-Chief explained a year ago that he has worked against his own speech impediment, a stutter, his entire life.
"I used writing, one, as a form of self-expression to get my voice on the page, but then it also metamorphosized into its own speech pathology, so the more that I recited out loud, the more in which I practiced spoken word in that tradition, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these letters which for so long had been my greatest impediment," she said.
It was the explosive Broadway hit "Hamilton," she said, that finally got her over the hump of the speech issue.
"One thing that I would do to try to train myself to say [the letter R], is I would listen to the song, 'Aaron Burr, Sir,' which is just packed with Rs. I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr. as he’s doing this amazing rap and I’d say, ‘If I can train myself to do this song then I can train myself to say this letter,'" she said.
"Hamilton" has remained so near and dear to her heart that Gorman even infused the production into "The Hill We Climb," with lines such as, "History has its eyes on us" referring back to the musical; one of the songs featured in the show is titled "History Has Its Eyes on You." That connection played out on Twitter last night, when Gorman and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda had a sweet exchange.
Gorman’s words struck so many viewers that pre-sales of her books, "Change Sings," a children’s story, and "The Hill We Climb," a collection of poems, skyrocketed just after her recitation:
The power of words, people!