Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman is an LA Native

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration was a star-studded event, featuring some of the country’s hottest musicians. But it was the performance of 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, that left the nation abuzz.

Gorman is the youngest poet laureate to ever recite the inaugural poem (you can read the poem she read, The Hill We Climb, here). She’s a woman of color with roots in Southern California. The daughter of a teacher, she attended private school in Santa Monica and was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles when she was just 16. She graduated from Harvard University as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

“Amanda Gorman showcased the very best of LA and our nation yesterday,” the Mayors Fund for Los Angeles tweeted. “Her path to the inaugural podium was paved in part by a local non-profit, @WriteGirlLA. Congratulations to Amanda and to all those in our city who help our youth to soar.” 

Gorman’s rise to stardom is a high mark for young women of color. Her story is also an inspirational one for students with special needs. Gorman suffered from a speech impediment caused by an auditory processing disorder as a child. She told the Los Angeles Times she thinks the disorder contributed to her incredible language and writing skills. 

“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,” she said.

Gorman’s show-stopping performance wasn’t the only affirmation on display for those with varying abilities. For the Pledge of Allegiance, Fire Captain Andrea Hall signed the words in American Sign Language as she spoke — a first for a presidential inauguration. President Biden himself famously worked to overcome a stutter at a young age.

The representation of special needs individuals at the inauguration is significant. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, almost 1 in 12 (7.7%) of U.S. children aged 3-17 has a disorder related to speech, language, voice, or swallowing.