Poetry was the tool Amanda Gorman relied on to overcome a speech impediment. The 23-year-old Harvard University graduate was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder while in kindergarten.
It continued to cause problems well into her young adult life, as she was unable to pronounce "R" sounds up until 2 or 3 years ago. But she wasn't going to let it get in her way. As she told CNN, she relied on songs like "Aaron Burr, Sir" and poetry performances to improve.
Amanda Gorman has an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment.
"I am proud to be in the speech difficulty club with you, President Biden, and also Maya Angelou," Amanda told CNN's Anderson Cooper in Jan. 2021. "Growing up, I had a speech impediment, and for me, it wasn't stuttering, it was dropping a whole swath of letters in the alphabet."
As Amanda told Anderson, she used writing as a way to experiment with self-expression. Reciting poetry, in particular, has helped her work on the speech impediment.
"I used writing, one, as a form of self-expression to get my voice on the page, but then and also, metamorphosize [sic] into its own speech pathology," Amanda said. "So the more that I recited out loud, the more I practiced spoken word in that tradition, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these letters, which for so long had been my greatest impediment."
At Joe Biden's Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, Amanda performed "The Hill We Climb," a poem portraying the country as one that is continuously in the making. "The Hill We Climb" ends with the word "rise," repeated four times. As Amanda told Anderson, she had to factor this in.
Amanda relied on songs like "Aaron Burr, Sir" to improve her speech impediment.
In addition to poetry and spoken word, Amanda also used songs like "Aaron Burr, Sir" from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton to help with her pronunciation.
"One thing that I would do to try to train myself to say it is I would listen to the song 'Aaron Burr, Sir,' which is just packed with R's," Amanda said. "And I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr. as he's doing this amazing rap, and I'd say, 'If I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter.'"
An avid Hamilton fan, Amanda also included several references to the musical in "The Hill We Climb."
"Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid," goes the poem. The line is a nod to the song, "One Last Time," per Bookstr.
"In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption," Amanda wrote, in homage to "History Has Its Eyes on You."
To keep her references in order, she also tweeted Lin-Manuel on Jan. 20, 2021.
"Thanks, Lin-Manuel! Did you catch the two Hamilton references in the inaugural poem? I couldn’t help myself!" Amanda tweeted.
Amanda has a twin sister named Gabrielle.
Gabrielle is a filmmaker and a recent graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Much like Amanda, she is an activist, creative, and change-maker. Her short films include Dear America and Mr. Ewing.
Gabrielle is also behind the YouTube series Bell Parks. She directed, produced, and starred in Bell Parks, she explains on her website.