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How 'Hamilton' helped inaugural poet Amanda Gorman beat speech impediment

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On Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday, Amanda Gorman, the young poet who stole the hearts of Americans with the reading of her poem “The Hills We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration earlier in the day, spoke about past struggles with a speech impediment and revealed how she beat it. Just a few years ago, Gorman, who at 22 is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, wouldn’t have been able to give the performance she’d given that morning.
“For, I wanna say most of my life up until two or maybe three years ago, I couldn’t say the letter R,” Gorman said. “Even to this day sometimes I struggle with it. Which is difficult when you have a poem in which you say ‘rise’ like five times.”
Following the inauguration, Hamilton writer Lin-Manuel MIranda tweeted at Gorman, who replied by asking if he’d caught the Hamilton references in her poem. When asked about her exchange with Miranda, Gorman revealed that not only did she put Hamilton references in the poem, but she used a song from the play to help beat her impediment.
“It was as recent as college that I was still struggling to say the ‘R’ sound, so one thing I would try to do to train myself to say it, is I would listen to the song ‘Aaron Burr Sir,’ which is just packed with Rs,” Gorman said. “And I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr. as he’s doing this amazing rap, and I’d say, ‘If I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter.’ So that’s been a huge part of my own speech pathology. It’s why I included it in the inaugural poem.”

Video Transcript

[WHOOSHING]

AMANDA GORMAN: For, I want to say, most of my life up until two or maybe three years ago, I couldn't say the letter R. Even to this day sometimes, I struggle with it, which is difficult when you have a poem in which you say "rise" like five times.

- Amanda Gorman, the poet who stole the hearts of Americans after reading her poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, joined "Anderson Cooper 360" where she spoke about her struggles with a speech impediment. And Gorman revealed that she used a song from "Hamilton" to learn to beat it.

AMANDA GORMAN: It was as recent as college that I was still struggling to say the R sound. And so one thing that I would do to try to train myself to say it is I would listen to the song "Aaron Burr, Sir," which is just packed with Rs.

- After the inauguration, "Hamilton" writer Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted at Gorman, who replied asking if he caught the "Hamilton" references in her poem. Miranda responded, "You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it." And that perfect delivery Miranda mentioned was in part thanks to words he himself had written.

AMANDA GORMAN: I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom, Jr. as he's doing this amazing rap. And I'd say, if I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter. And so that's been a huge part of my own speech pathology. It's why I included it in the inaugural poem.

- And in a rare occurrence, Anderson Cooper found himself speechless when Gorman revealed the mantra she says before every reading.

AMANDA GORMAN: I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.

ANDERSON COOPER: Hm. Wow. Wow. You're just-- you're awesome.