Buzz, Mashreads, Poetry, social good, Social Justice, Youth

Watch the first-ever U.S. youth poet laureate perform a stunning poem about social change

This summer, 19-year-old Amanda Gorman sat down to outline her priorities. As the very first U.S. youth poet laureate, a position she earned for her literary talent as well as her record of community engagement and leadership, she asked herself, “What do I want to accomplish?”

Since Gorman took on the inaugural role, she’s embarked on a national tour across the U.S. She hopes to make poetry accessible to America’s young people, and has sought them out when she speaks and performs. She wanted to be the one sitting and listening, too. Young people around the country, she believes, deserve a say in what she does. 

“Being the first young poet to have this title means a lot of pressure but also a lot of freedom,” said Gorman, who is also a sophomore at Harvard University. “I vacillate between anxiety about the precedent I am setting and the excitement that I’m starting fresh on a blank canvas. No pattern, no forerunners, just me defining what matters most to me as laureate. That has been the most thrilling part.”

Gorman’s ambition and talent were on full display Sunday at the 2017 Social Good Summit in New York City, where she performed her poem “The Gathering Place” in front of a global crowd at the 92nd Street Y and watching via livestream. Inspired by the summit itself, Gorman’s poem touched on themes like community, innovation, and hope.

“With one microphone, we streak / across the globe like an eclipse,” Gorman read. “We strike our plans into stone / and from this we build a summit worth climbing, / a goal worth reaching, / a world worth building.”

Gorman mentioned various people in her poem who were also speaking at the Social Good Summit, including Tony Award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, and tech entrepreneur ElsaMarie D’Silva, who created an app to protect young women and survivors of sexual assault. 

The poem ended with a powerful call to action for those attending the summit, inspiring them to use the conference as jumping-off point for real change:

In this village
We make the globe a little smaller
So we can dream bigger,
so the dream need not wait.

Here in this gathering,
we do good so that the world
might be great. 

Gorman wanted to speak to complex global issues and “write a multilayered poem that at the same time could touch the different cultures and ideals of the people gathered at this event.”

“There’s a reason tyrants fear the poet.”

“They’re change-makers, thought leaders, and artists, and I wanted to create something that speaks to the value of that work in teaching us that we all can contribute to social good,” she said. “Whether you’re in the U.N. General Assembly or an 88-pound college student/poet, you can be part of a global village making a more innovative and sustainable world.”

Gorman often says that social justice work is integral to her identity as a writer. Being an organizer and an activist, especially in her home of Los Angeles, California, has crossed into her writing, which touches on issues issues of race, feminism, oppression, and marginalization. She also founded a nonprofit, One Pen One Page, when she was just 16 years old, to provide creative writing opportunities for underserved youth across the country.

“Poetry exists as a unique tool that can interrogate and communicate issues of inequality and injustice in a manner that is inherently rebellious,” Gorman said. “Poetry as an art form in itself cuts against the grain … Poetry, and art in general, is humankind’s creative mechanism for social change. There’s a reason tyrants fear the poet.”

Read Gorman’s poem “The Gathering Place,” in full, below.

“The Gathering Place”

Inspired by the 2017 Social Good Summit

On the corner of East 92nd and Lexington
Under congested incandescence of pulsing city
the world bends itself into a village.
Here: our great gathering place. 

A space on hot, laughing earth
Where we stretch room for others beside us
where closed doors are far too tight for
the giant that is hope to grow.
Every idea an open sea
Every voice a boat voyaging the bank of blue.

We, a village, a dancing city,
meet among the the music of concrete and steel
where subway cars, ride the beat of hustle and heel.

In this village we string together the continents
in the palm of one building
With one microphone, we streak
across the globe like an eclipse
We strike our plans into stone
and from this we build a summit worth climbing,
a goal worth reaching,
a world worth building.

Like this place,
Our village is one of striking shapes and deeds
where cultures and languages jive like seeds

Village to Cynthia Erivo, London miracle, whose voice rips
open the sky from the mountaintop of the stage
Village to Pete Cashmore, who at my age built
a gathering site for the courageously curious and obstinately obsessive
Village to ElsaMarie D’Silva, who took her own pain to carve
out a thick roof of voices for assaulted women.

These are the types of villagers we are—
We eat away our hunger
With our appetite for goodness
we breathe rivers into throats
with our voices for change.

in the spine of this meeting ground,
new city, new village, we’ve reached a summit,
and are ready to loudly name another.
This be hope, this be home,
we are hope, we are home,
we be vigilant,
we be united, we be good,
we do good, we are good,
as we should
in the place where a millennium stood
for what we understood

On the corner of hope and drive,
Under the question of open sky
sprawls our great gathering site. 

In this village
We make the globe a little smaller
So we can dream bigger,
so the dream need not wait.

Here in this gathering,
we do good so that the world
might be great. 

About Social Good Summit

The intersection of technology and new media has redefined our understanding of human progress. In the midst of this rapidly changing world, the Social Good Summit focuses on where we’re headed. Held annually during the United Nations General Assembly week, the Summit unites a lively community of global citizens and progressive thought leaders around a common theme: #2030NOW. A dynamic exploration of the world we want to live in by 2030, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can unlock technology’s potential to make the world a better place.

This year’s summit is brought to you by Mashable, the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme, and the 92nd Street Y. For complete event details, visit

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