BOSTON (WHDH) - A 22-year-old Harvard graduate became one of the nation’s most talked-about artists when she delivered a powerful performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Amanda Gorman summoned images of pride and unity in her poem on Wednesday as she stepped into her role as the youngest poet laureate in U.S. history.
“We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,” she said.
Americans across the country watched on as she marked the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency — the youngest inaugural poet ever.
“To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man,” she said in her call to action.
She penned the poem entitled “The Hill We Climb,” after the riot at the Capitol earlier this month.
The performance captivated millions with its focus on healing as a nation. Those who know that Harvard grad personally said they are not surprised by the power of her words.
“I wrote a post to people on social media yesterday saying tomorrow you know who Amanda Gorman is,” artist and choreographer Ayodele Casel said.
Her sociology professor Jocelyn Viterna first met Gorman when she was a college freshman.
“Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Amanda over the last few years have learned that she regularly achieves greatness,” Viterna said. “I asked her what interested her in the class and she said it was the word change in the title and that she had come to Harvard to figure out how to make the world a better place.”
Viterna said that even then she knew there was something special about Gorman’s way of connecting with other writers and artists.
One of those being Casel who was an artist in residence when she met Gorman at a Harvard inauguration in 2018.
The two would become friends with Gorman’s poetry even being featured in one of Casel’s performances.
“I just knew from that moment that she was a powerhouse,” Casel said. “She is small in physical appearance but she is big in spirit.”
Some may recognize the young poet from her performance at the Boston Pops July 4th Spectacular two years ago.
Now, after her performance on the national stage, she is garnering praise from Hamilton’s Lin Manuel-Miranda who tweeted in part, “Brava…”
Oprah Winfrey also showed her support in a tweet, writing, “Maya Angelou is cheering and so am I.”
Angelou read a poem at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Wednesday Gorman wore earrings and a caged bird ring as a tribute to the late writer.
“We close the divide because we know to put our future first we must first put our differences aside,” she said.
Many are now drawing comparisons between the two women and those who know her say her story is just beginning.
“She would introduce herself as future president and say, ‘I’m Amanda and I’m going to be president.’ And I know there’s no doubt in my mind,” Casel said of her friend. “It’s not surprising to me that the world has now fallen in love with her.”
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