“Maya Angelou was mute growing up as a child and she grew up to deliver the inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton,” Gorman said. “So I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle with a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage in the inauguration.”
According to CBS Los Angeles, Gorman began writing at an early age in order to cope with a speech impediment. “I had a speech impediment. And so I couldn’t use my voice, then I would author my voice on the page. So it’s really been a godsend and a lifeline for me,” she told CBS News.
Her powerful words caught the attention of many and by the age of 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. At the request of Jill Biden, Gorman was invited to recite a poem at the inauguration.
In preparation for her inauguration performance, Gorman began writing a few lines a day to work on her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” But she finished writing the piece the night of Jan. 6, the day Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol. “I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”
During the interview, Gorman shared the following excerpt of her poem.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.
If the ceremony hasn’t made you cry yet, her work definitely will.
Read the full text of the poem here.