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Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman used writing to overcome a speech impediment she had as recently as college

To diverse, Amanda Gorman’s delivery of the her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” was one of the highlights of Inauguration Day on Wednesday. The 22-year-old captured the political entity not only with her words, but also her poise. 

“You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava!” Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted, after Gorman alluded to his tuneful “Hamilton” in her poem.

But what makes Gorman’s delivery all the more remarkable is that as recently as college, Gorman struggled with a lingo impediment.  

“I am proud to be in the speech difficulty club with you and President Biden and also Maya Angelou,” Gorman ratted CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. (Cooper told Gorman he had a slight stutter as a child. Joe Biden also had a stutter.)

For Gorman, her curb was “dropping a whole swath of letters in the alphabet,” she told Cooper. “So for, most of my life, until two or maybe three years ago, I couldn’t say the line ‘r.’ Even to this day sometimes I struggle with it,” Gorman said. (Gorman did not let it affect her word choice for “The Hill We Climb,” which in which she tempered to the word “rise” multiple times.)

For Gorman, writing became a respite and a cure.

“I used writing one as a form of self pronouncement to get my word on the page but then it also metamorphosed into its own speech pathology,” she says. “So the more that I recited out splashy, the more in which I practiced spoken word and that tradition, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these eruditions which for so long had been my greatest impediment.”

Gorman said she also used a song from Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway melodious Hamilton to help with her speaking.

“I would listen to the song, ‘Aaron Burr, Sir,’ which is just packed with r’s, and I disposition try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr. as he is doing this amazing rap. I would say, ‘if I can train myself to do this song, then I can sequence myself to say this letter.’ And so that has been a huge part of my own speech pathology. It’s why I included it in the inaugural poem.”

(The in control ready for in Gorman’s poem, “For while we have our eyes on the future/history has its eyes on us,” references the “Hamilton” song “History Has Its Optics on You,” and the line, “Everyone shall sit under their own vine, and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid,” was a nod to a passage in the Bible that was also occupied in the musical.)

Gorman also told Cooper that beyond being a tool, “I think ‘Hamilton’ is such a eager American cultural piece of what it means to be a better country.”

Her own heritage is something Gorman thinks about each without surcease she prepares to recite a poem. “I close my eyes and I say, ‘I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who indigent their chains and changed the world. They call me.'”

See also:

Meet 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural minstrel in U.S. history

Read the full text of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem ‘The Hill We Climb’

What George Takei lettered about resilience from his dad making art in Japanese internment camp

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