Photo of a pen and notebook

Amanda Gorman: Making the spoken word relevant again

In five vibrant minutes on January 20, 2021, just two weeks following the attacks on the U.S Capitol and years of great divide, Amanda Gorman delivered an impassioned call to the nation.

Gorman’s The Hill We Climb zeroed in on the need for healing and reconciliation with a plea for Americans to come together to rebuild and realize the true strength of the country. Her final words were simple and clear, delivered with power.

Here is always light,
If only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

Gorman’s verses not only reinforced the power of the spoken word, but also that it is a medium that is available to all. In essence, she gave poetry, which gets relatively little stage time in standard school curriculum, star billing. Educators were inspired to see how they can do more to incorporate poetry in education — an important notion when you consider that research conducted by Wendy R. Williams, assistant professor of English at Arizona State University, has shown that studying poetry and performing spoken word can boost writing skills, academic performance, confidence and social skills.

Gorman’s inspiration may just be the push we need to empower students to build deeper written and oral communication skills — skills that will remain essential even as technology like artificial intelligence shifts the nature of work. In a world where we’ve become over-reliant on short strings of characters, emojis and photos, Gorman’s first five minutes in the sun has the potential to be the breakthrough we need to move beyond the snaps, tweets, and social and political divides, encouraging more people to speak out.

But Gorman, now 23, has just scratched the surface of influence. In September, Gorman entered into a three-year agreement to become the first “Global Changemaker” of 75-year-old beauty brand Estée Lauder, following a flood of brand ambassador offers she received. Gorman will be much more than just a face, however. She will partner with Estée Lauder on Writing Change, a new initiative to advance literacy as a pathway to equality, access and social change aimed at raising voices and opportunities for girls and women. Gorman and Estée Lauder both chose impact through amplifying a powerful voice for change. They got it right.

As brands continue to find ways to articulate how they are moving the needle on purpose in a meaningful way, Gorman reinforces the criticality of supporting purpose with action and authenticity. As communicators and marketers, we have a responsibility to not only amplify voices, but to shape them through strong, credible and authentic executive voices, and tapping influencers who can help deepen reach and engagement for their words. We carry a great responsibility that is not just about brand, but about demonstrating good business in the broadest sense. The importance of purpose will only continue to grow with everyone from employees and customers to investors. And for that, we need more voices who can advocate for change and hold companies accountable for it. As communicators, our role in developing and growing those voices has never been more paramount.