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  • Glenn van Zutphen

A 22 year-old Made America and the World Listen

It was one of the most memorable moments of the U.S. Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Amanda Gorman, America's first-ever Youth Poet Laureate showed people how, in just over five minutes, she could capture the attention of the world and deliver meaning to it.

Photo: Getty Images

The striking 22-year-old combined the beautiful style of the late Maya Angelo and the meter of Eminem in her tome: "The Hill We Climb."

First Lady Jill Biden picked the Harvard graduate to talk about healing, home, harmony. In a post-inauguration interview with CNN, she talked about having only one month to research and prepare. She looked at past inaugural addresses by Presidents and poets and even modern-day tweets that led to the memorable line: "We've seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it." The youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a Presidential Inauguration gave a masterclass in meaning and delivery to speakers and communicators everywhere:

  • Content that was right for the audience and time

  • Confidence and authenticity at the podium

  • A verbal pace that ebbed and flowed; sometimes like a river, other times like a rollercoaster

  • Effective pauses

  • Steady eye contact

  • Hand gestures that accentuated her words, but didn't overpower them

  • Clothing and a "look" that was striking and memorable, but not distracting

The poem's last stanza: When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

May we all step out of the shade and remember words Amanda spoke on a sunny, cold January day and the way that she spoke them.


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