Prior to January 20, 2021, I had never heard of Amanda Gorman. Add it to the long list of things I am not cultured about. One can only digest so much content out there in the world, but I digress.
On January 20th, I decided to watch the inauguration. In addition to the momentous occasion of our first female Vice President, I’m a huge Garth Brooks fan, so I was delighted to see him walk out in his jeans and just be himself. Then, this stunning, confident, petite, black woman is introduced. At first impression I thought she was around 16 years old. I heard she was a poet laureate and of course had no idea what that was.
Then she began to talk. I was mesmerized. More than that. I was in awe, and in a way, starstruck. Everything about her worked. Her non verbals, her tone, her poise, her clarity.
Then I break out my phone to check what the internet has to say about her. Well wow, she knows Michelle Obama and Oprah. She’s written a book. She’s well on her way. Oh, and she is 22 years old. I guess everyone under 25 looks like a teenager to me these days.
Then I get to an article that says Amanda Gorman overcame a speech impediment. I almost jumped out of my chair. “You have got to be kidding me,” I scream out loud. My teen boys continue to ignore me. “She has a speech impediment? There is NO way.”
Now the phone is not sufficient enough for the research I need to do. I grab the laptop and begin searching ‘down the rabbit hole’ as my friends like to call it.
I find this video from a TedTalk Amanda did in 2018. Less than four years ago, but if you listen, the issue with sounds is definitely there. Her ‘R’s and ‘Th’s stood out the most for me. It gets better because Amanda is VERY open about her speech issues and vocal about the amount of work she has done to overcome this. In a recent CBS This Morning interview she explained she used songs as a form of speech therapy and explained, “My favorite thing to practice was the song ‘Aaron Burr, Sir,’ from Hamilton because it is jam-packed with Rs. And I said, “If I can keep up with Leslie in this track, then I am on my way to being able to say this R in a poem.”
I’m not a speech therapist, but I’m a mom of a child who also had to work hard to overcome speech issues. I know that it takes a lot of time and determination to accomplish what Amanda Gorman has done. I know that hard work pays off. Thank you to Amanda for being so open about her speech impediment. I hope speech therapists around the world see Amanda’s success story and revel in the great work they do.