Spotlight: Amanda Gorman

Inaugural poet. National Youth Poet Laureate. Harvard graduate. It is an impressive list for a 24-year-old, but Amanda Gorman’s accolades do not begin or end there. She is one of my favorite role models and a source of inspiration for poets and girls everywhere. Plus, we share the same name!

A Woman of Many Hats

Gorman is a poet and activist, focusing her work on themes of oppression, race, feminism, and marginalization. As a teenager, she joined WriteGirl, an LA-based nonprofit dedicated to mentoring young female writers, which she credits as the inspiration behind her success as a writer. She went on to hold the title for first Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate and first National Youth Poet Laureate, promoting the power of poetry in her positions. During her time at Harvard, she studied sociology, obtaining a cum laude distinction when she graduated in 2020. 

Not only is Gorman a powerhouse with her personal work, but she also loves to give back to her community. She founded One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs to underserved youth. She is also the youngest board member of 826 National, the largest U.S. youth writing network. She even has teamed up with Estee Lauder to create change on a global scale (but more on that below!).

Bringing Poetry to the White House

Inaugural poets have been invited to share the stage with the new president as a way to show their appreciation for the arts and literature. On January 20, 2021 at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Gorman joined Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander, and Richard Blanco in earning this title while being the youngest to do so. Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was meant to serve as a unifying force for a seemingly divided country. I remember watching her take the stage from my living room couch and being in awe of what someone just a few years older than me could do. She helped bring poetry to a national audience, one that needed the message of unity and strength more than ever.

Listen to Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”

Estee Lauder’s First Global Changemaker

In 2022, Gorman announced a partnership with Estee Lauder to form the “Writing Change” initiative, a three-year commitment to offer three million dollars in support to grassroots organizations whose goals are to advance literacy and inspire social change.

Literacy builds self-efficacy and esteem, unlocks opportunity, and empowers people to participate fully in their community and in society. Yet, despite the steady rise in literacy rates over the years, more than 773 million children and adults around the world are illiterate, most of whom are girls and women. In the United States, over 43 million adults lack functional literacy skills and nearly two-thirds of high school graduates are still reading below grade level.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted education and magnified the pre-existing inequalities in the access to tools, resources, and programming that are essential to sustained progress in literacy and learning, particularly in low-income or rural communities and in communities of color.

WRITING CHANGE aims to invest in organizations working hard to advance systemic changes and close the literacy gap by providing equitable access to tools, resources, and programming that are essential to sustained progress.

mission of writing change, from estee lauder

The grantees in 2022 include We Need Diverse Books, WriteGirl, Girls Write Now, the American Library Association, and MIGIZI. Each US-based organization aligns with a different facet of Gorman’s mission, from writing to feminism to diversity in voices. 

A Successful Publishing Path

It is clear that Gorman has had immense success in the world of poetry and that does not stop when it turns to publishing. In 2021 alone, she published Call Us What We Carry and The Hill We Climb as well as a children’s book titled Change Sings, garnering over thirty thousand total ratings on Goodreads. And, if I had to guess, there are plenty more ideas where these came from.

Want to Learn More?

To read more about Amanda Gorman, check out her feature in chapter 11 of my new book, Poetic Potential: Sparking Change & Empowerment Through Poetry.

*Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links, which mean I could earn a small commission for your purchase through that link. I only share what I believe is worthwhile!

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