Poet Amanda Gorman on her inauguration invite: I was ‘honestly shocked’

Poet Amanda Gorman on her inauguration invite: I was ‘honestly shocked’
ABC News
| ABC News Radio

By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Amanda Gorman said she feels “amazing” after making history Wednesday as the youngest poet in recent history to perform at a presidential inauguration.

“It’s not often that you wake up on a morning feeling like this,” Gorman, 22, said Thursday on ABC News’ Good Morning America in her first live TV interview since President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Gorman, a Los Angeles native, became the breakout star of the inauguration with her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which she finished writing on the night of Jan. 6, hours after rioters took siege on Capitol Hill.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished,” she said in the poem. “We, the successors of a country and a time, where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”

Gorman, named the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, was handpicked to read at the inauguration by first lady Jill Biden.

The Harvard graduate said she was “honestly shocked” at the invitation.

“I had not been expecting at 22 that they would trust me with such an honor,” she said. “I was also daunted at the same time. I was honestly scared of writing such a poem. I wasn’t sure that I could even do it justice, but I’m so glad that I put my best foot forward and did it.”

Adding to Gorman’s hesitation was that she has fought to overcome a speech impediment, similar to the experience of President Biden, who has been public about his lifelong battle with stuttering.

“My speech impediment wasn’t a stutter but it was dropping several letters that I just could not say for several years, most specifically the ‘r’ sound,” said Gorman. “It would take until probably I was 20 to say, meaning that I couldn’t say words like poetry or even Gorman, which is my last name. I had to really work at it and practice to get to where I am today.”

Gorman said she was particularly proud at how she delivered the word “rise” in her poem, joking, “I was kind of like why in the world did I put rise in my poem five times.”

“But also it was this amazing full-circle moment for me because if I’d written this poem three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say it,” she said. “So it was me rising I think as well as the country at that time.”

Gorman received praise for her poem from the likes of Lin Manuel Miranda, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, who tweeted, “Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey gave Gorman the gold hoop earrings and birdcage ring she wore at the inauguration, according to Oprah magazine.

“We’ve been in touch for a while now,” Gorman said of Winfrey. “She was just so generous in making sure I was prepared both emotionally and fashionably.”

Amid all of the attention she received at the inauguration and in the 24 hours since, Gorman said she was most touched by meeting Lady Gaga, who sang the Star-Spangled banner on Wednesday.

“It was so incredible meeting Lady Gaga. I mean I’m gaga for Gaga, literally,” she said. “We kind of just each flew to each other like magnets after the ceremony ended and we were both just crying and hugging.”

“It was just such a great moment because what she does with music I aspire to do with poetry so it was great to have that woman to woman camaraderie,” Gorman added.

Gorman, who told The New York Times in 2017 that she plans to run for president in 2036, delivered her poem at a historic inauguration that saw Kamala Harris sworn in as the country’s first female vice president.

When asked on GMA if she still hopes to run for president in the next decade, Gorman replied with two simple words, “Heck yeah.”

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