Amanda Gorman is opening up about what pushed her to perform her moving poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. in January. At her virtual book launch party, celebrating the publication of The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Nation, the National Youth Poet Laureate got a surprise from Oprah Winfrey, whom Gorman says had something to do with it.
“I texted Oprah asking, ‘Are you going to be there? I’m really deliberating because I’m really scared,'” Gorman recalled in the latest from Oprah Daily.
Winfrey’s encouragement helped the young poet say yes. “You said, ‘Mask up, show up, and go.’ To have you cheer me on and say that and believe that I could do it meant everything,” she told Winfrey during the virtual book launch party.
But it was no question for the host.
“I have not left the house in 365 days, but you have to go,” Winfrey said on the call. “I think I said, the trajectory of your life is going to change if you do it.”
Gorman agreed, saying, “You said, ‘It was a huge moment for Maya [Angelou] and it’ll be a huge moment for you.'”
And it was. Gorman went on to sign with IMG Models and took part in the Super Bowl LV pregame show, which showed her delivering a powerful poem alongside footage of three everyday heroes who were chosen as honorary team captains by the NFL.
These captains included Trimaine Davis, a Los Angeles teacher who fought to secure internet access and laptops for his students amid the pandemic, Suzie Dorner, a Tampa nurse who managed the COVID ICU at Tampa General Hospital, and James Martin, a Marine veteran who has helped veterans and their families connect virtually through the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Let us walk with these warriors, charge on with these champions, and carry forth the call of our captains,” Gorman said in her poem. “We celebrate them by acting with courage and compassion, by doing what is right and just.”
“For while we honor them today,” she concluded, “it is they who every day honor us.”