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Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman Reveals She Overcame a Major Speech Impediment at 20 Years Old

Wordsmith Amanda Gorman captivated millions of Americans on Jan. 20, 2021, as she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” for the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

At just 23 years old, Gorman gracefully delivered words that reminded some to have hope for the future, rendering her global audience speechless. While her words flowed from her mouth with ease and conviction on that historical day, that was not always been the case for the young poet.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks during the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Now having floated through the many weeks of sudden stardom, Gorman is opening up to Oprah about her journey to overcome an auditory processing disorder as well as a speech impediment. 

“I was born early, along with my twin, and a lot of times, for infants, that can lead to learning delays,” explained Gorman to Oprah during the sit-down interview for Apple TV+ “The Oprah Conversation.” “One of my delays was in speech and speech pronunciation, and also the auditory processing issue just means I really struggle as an auditory learner.”

The U.S. Youth Poet Laureate revealed she struggled to reach pronunciation milestones like her counterparts when saying words with “ch”‘ or “sh.” In particular, she said the letter “r” caused her the most trouble.

“It is one of the most complex letters in the English alphabet. That was something that I would struggle with until probably 20 years of age.” Only three years removed from conquering her learning roadblock that challenged her own perception of identity, Gorman looks back at the struggle as a testament of strength. 

“When you are learning through poetry how to speak English, it lends to a great understanding of sound, of pitch, of pronunciation, so I think of my speech impediment not as a weakness or a disability, but as one of my greatest strengths,” she explained. 

Still in awe of Gorman, Oprah said, “I have never been more proud to see a young woman rise.”

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