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Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman reveals she used a 'Hamilton' song to help beat speech impediment

Stephen Proctor
·3 min read
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Amanda Gorman, the national youth poet laureate who stole the hearts of Americans when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, joined CNN afterwards and spoke about her past struggles with a speech impediment. Gorman, who at 22 is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, wouldn’t have been able to do the reading just a few years ago.

“For, I want to say most of my life up until two or maybe three years ago, I couldn’t say the letter R,” Gorman said. “Even to this day sometimes I struggle with it. Which is difficult when you have a poem in which you say ‘rise’ like five times.”

Gorman hid a couple references to the hit Broadway play Hamilton in “The Hill We Climb,” and revealed that she used a song from the play to learn how to beat her impediment.

“It was as recent as college that I was still struggling to say the ‘R’ sound, so one thing I would try to do to train myself to say it, is I would listen to the song ‘Aaron Burr, Sir,’ which is just packed with Rs,” Gorman 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.’ So that’s been a huge part of my own speech pathology. It’s why I included it in the inaugural poem.”

After the inauguration, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted at Gorman, who replied, asking if he’d caught the references in her poem. He responded, “You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it.”

Gorman explained why it was important for her to insert Hamilton references in her poem besides the help in beating her impediment.

“I think Hamilton is such a great, kind of, American cultural piece of what it means to be a better country,” Gorman said. “It was really hard for me to not just copy and paste ‘My Shot’ and email it to the inaugural committee. ‘Here’s my poem!’ But I cite my sources, which is why I tweeted about Hamilton. I’m really proud that I was able to incorporate that in there.”

In a rare occurrence, CNN’s Anderson Cooper found himself speechless when Gorman revealed the mantra she says before every reading, including Wednesday’s.

“I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me,” Gorman said to a stunned Cooper. “Wow,” he said, looking for words. “You’re just awesome. I’m so transfixed.”

For more on the inauguration check out CNN.com.

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