How Amanda Gorman Became the Nation’s First Youth Poet Laureate

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Amanda Gorman

Age 19

Hometown Los Angeles

Now Lives As a sophomore at Harvard University, she lives in campus housing with two of her best friends.

Claim to Fame Ms. Gorman is a poet, author and activist who is the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. Celebrated by such prominent women as Hillary Clinton (Ms. Gorman helped introduce Ms. Clinton at the 2017 Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards in March) and Cynthia Erivo, her poetry is a cleareyed mix of autobiography, social issues like Islamophobia, and historical motifs picked up from her college’s library. “I want to create poems that stand the test of time and counter the fragmented news culture of today,” she said.

Big Break Inspired by a speech that Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize laureate, gave in 2013, Ms. Gorman became a youth delegate for the United Nations at the age of 16. “It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could accomplish,” she said. Soon after, in 2014, she was named the inaugural Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. The following year, she published her first poetry collection, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.”

Latest Project “What’s really funny about being National Youth Poet Laureate is that not everyone even knows it exists,” said Ms. Gorman, who was given the honor in April. “I feel in many ways like a unicorn.” That’s not to say she isn’t taking her new role seriously. “I did a lot of sitting back and thinking about what I wanted for myself and what I wanted for my country: more unity, more support for the arts and more opportunities for young writers from marginalized groups,” she said.

Next Thing Between courses in sociology and her laureate obligations, she continues to lead One Pen One Page, an organization she founded in 2016 that provides platforms “for student storytellers to change the world.” She is also putting the final touches on She the People, an experiential virtual reality project that seeks to empower teenager girls. “I’m navigating all that while also being a young black woman navigating the intersectionality of my identity,” she said.

Future Madam President It should come as little surprise that the White House is already on her bucket list. “This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States,” she said matter-of-factly. “So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”

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