Grateful American Kids

Amanda Gorman on the One Piece of Advice That Changed Her Life

The poet, who caught the world’s attention with her inaugural reading, speaks about what keeps her motivated, her literary influences and her hopes for the future.

The One with Amanda Gorman on The Wall Street Journal
Directed by Barbara Anastacio

What’s one goal you hope to accomplish?

In 30 years, one goal I hope to accomplish is to become president of the United States.

What’s the one word you most often use?

LOL. I just say that in conversation a lot, because either I’m laughing really loud or I’m laughing on the inside.

What’s the one phone call that changed your life?

The Zoom in which I was told by the inaugural committee that I was going to be the 2021 inaugural poet.

What’s the one thing you’ve learned about yourself during lockdown?

That there’s nothing wrong with being alone. I started seeing solitude as a real gift, because those moments of being alone teach you how important it is to have people who love you.

What’s the one poem everyone should read?

One of the many poems I’ll say people should read is “I, Too,” by Langston Hughes.

What’s the one role of the poet in today’s world?

To question and to investigate. If the poet can help us ask the right questions, then that helps us get to the right destinations.

What’s the one thing about which you most often say,“Well, maybe one day….”?

Oh, I often say maybe one day I’ll vacation. But I’m actually making that someday a reality. So I’m getting very dedicated to carving out time for myself to just break.

What’s the one piece of advice that changed your life?

The one piece of advice that changed my life was from my mom, who was quoting Shakespeare. And in the play Hamlet, the character Polonius says, “To thine own self be true.” And she always said that to me in the car, on the way to school. Every day I was being reminded to be my whole and fullest self.

Who’s the one person you’d love to have dinner with?

I would really love to have dinner with Maya Angelou. She just lived such a remarkable and thorough career.

What’s the one thing you hope to see change in the world?

Understanding about the climate crisis as well as actions to rectify it. I think it’s time to put the alarm up. It’s an emergency.

What’s the one thing that keeps you motivated?

To put it simply, I would say joy. There’s something inherently joyous that occurs when I write. It’s some type of deep, inherent pleasure that I can’t get anywhere else.