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Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman on speech impediment: ‘I couldn’t say words like “poetry”‘

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Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman opened up about having a speech impediment, saying she and President Biden, who dealt with a stutter, are both in the “speech difficulty club.”

In an interview with “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Gorman, 22, said that while she didn’t suffer from a stutter, her speech impediment “was dropping several letters that I just could not say for several years, most specifically the ‘r’ sound.”

“It would take until probably I was 20 to say, meaning that I couldn’t say words like poetry or even Gorman, which is my last name. I had to really work at it and practice to get to where I am today,” she said.

Gorman made history Wednesday as the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. She recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” during Biden and Vice President Harris’s inauguration at the Capitol. 

“I was kind of like why in the world did I put ‘rise’ in my poem five times,” she said, referring to her usage of the word in her poem.

“But also it was this amazing full-circle moment for me because if I’d written this poem three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say it. So it was me rising I think as well as the country at that time,” she told the morning show.

Gorman told CNN in an earlier interview that she would practice “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the Broadway musical “Hamilton” to overcome the impediment.

“That’s been a huge part of my speech pathology. It’s why I included it in the inaugural poem. Also beyond that I think ‘Hamilton’ is such a great American cultural piece of what it means to be a better country. It was hard for me not to just copy and paste ‘My Shot,’ and email it the inaugural committee and be like here’s my poem,” Gorman told CNN. 

“Whenever I perform — and I definitely did it this time — and I close my eyes and I say I’m the daughter of Black writers. We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world,” she added.

She told CNN that she and Biden are both in the “speech difficulty club.”

Biden has previously spoken about overcoming a stutter.

“Stuttering when you think about is the only handicap that people still laugh about, that still humiliate people about,” Biden said at a town hall in winter 2020

“If I said to you when I was a kid I had a cleft pallet or a withered arm, no one would smile. It’s a debilitating situation,” he went on.

Biden said he keeps in touch with over a handful of people who go through the experience.

“The point I make to these young people that I still work with, is that in fact it’s critically important for them not to judge themselves by their speech. [To] not let that define them,” he said.

“It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient,” Biden continued. “It has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup.”


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