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January 22, 2021

Amanda Gorman, who became America’s First National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration. The 22-year-old called for unity and togetherness in her self-penned poem.

Reciting her powerful poem as the world listened attentively in quiet self-reflection, Gorman concluded to a standing ovation by distinguished members of the Congress. Amanda was recommended by the First Lady, Dr Jill Biden who is a fan of her work, who convinced the inauguration committee that she would be a perfect fit. 

"When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" her five-minute poem began.

“We witness a country that is not broken, but simply unfinished…Even as we grieved, we grew”

“We will never again seek division…While democracy may be temporarily delayed, it can never be completely defeated.”

America's first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate did her job, which was to find the right words at the right time. It was a beautifully paced, well-judged poem for a special occasion, but it will live long beyond the time and space of the moment. Amanda Gorman delivered her piece with grace, the words it contained will resonate with people the world over: today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

The writer and performer, who became the country's first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, followed in the footsteps of such famous names as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

Her precocious path was paved with both opportunities and challenges, overcoming an auditory processing disorder and speech impediment, and utilizing her early passion for language and the diverse influences of her native city. Gorman grew up near Westchester but spent the bulk of her time around the New Roads School, a socioeconomically diverse private school in Santa Monica. Her mother, Joan Wicks, teaches middle school in Watts. Shuttling among the neighbourhoods gave Gorman a window onto the deep inequities that divide ZIP Codes.

"I really wanted to use my words to be a point of unity and collaboration and togetherness," Gorman told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme before the ceremony.

"I think it's about a new chapter in the United States, about the future, and doing that through the elegance and beauty of words."