On January 20, 2021, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman stepped in front of a global audience, and with astounding eloquence, grace and poise, she shared her words.
"If we merge mercy with might and might with right / Then love becomes our legacy / And change our children's birthright," said Gorman, the youngest poet to read at a U.S. presidential inauguration.
Composing her poem, "The Hill We Climb," while under the pandemic lockdown in Los Angeles, she grew up not far from the WSL offices in Santa Monica and the beach known as the Ink Well. The young African American struggled with a speech impediment where even saying the word "poetry" presented a challenge.
Then she found her voice in her prose. She started writing relentlessly. Inspired to be a force of positive change in this world, by the time she was old enough to drive (she still doesn't have her license), she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.
She graduated cum laude from Harvard -- and while going to school also earned the distinction of being named the first National Youth Poet Laureate. And it seems fitting that she was invited to speak at the inauguration by First Lady Jill Biden, an educator by trade, as Gorman's mom is a middle school teacher in Watts. Oh, she also wants to run for president in 2036 -- when she'll finally be old enough.
As undeniably inspiring as all that is, Gorman also has the soul of a surfer. Her 2020 poem, "Ode To The Ocean" is a forceful, impassioned cry for unity to save our seas. Gorman writes:
Today we sing out your true name:
The one ocean.
For no matter how we try to separate your waters,
You are the colossus that connects us.
She ends the poem with a poignant verse:
Being the people of this blue planet is our most
Profound privilege and power,
For if we be the ocean's saviors,
Then it is surely ours.
It's a fool that says poetry is dead. Through the power of her words, Gorman is inspiring and leading the next generation. She's daring people to imagine a better world. Her light, levity and voice has become a force for positive change. Without a doubt, the next set wave is all yours, Amanda.