Amanda Gorman, the nation’s youngest-ever inaugural poet, kicked off the Super Bowl with an evocative poem that honored several heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 22-year-old former national youth poet laureate read her poem about the impact of educator Trimaine Davis, nurse Suzie Dorner, and Marine veteran James Martin, who were selected by the NFL as honorary captains for this year’s game for embodying the NFL’s message for this football season: “It Takes All of Us.”
“Today, we honor our three captains for their actions and impact in a time of uncertainty and need,” began Gorman in a piece called “Chorus of the Captains.” “They’ve taken the lead, exceeding all expectations and limitations, uplifting their communities and neighbors as leaders, healers and educators.”
Gorman detailed the heroism of Davis, Dorner and Martin, going on to say: “Let us walk with these warriors, charge on with these champions, and carry forth the call of our captains. We celebrate them by acting with courage and compassion, by doing what is right and just. For while we honor them today, it is they who everyday who honor us.”
Ahead of her recitation, Gorman tweeted about her excitement to perform a poem at an event like the Super Bowl, “because it means we’re thinking imaginatively about human connection even when we feel siloed.”
Gorman recently made headlines after bowling over viewers and listeners on Inauguration Day with a poem about unifying a wounded nation and moving forward. During her performance of a piece called “The Hill We Climb,” she implored the crowd: “We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. / We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.”
The poet, who has a speech impediment like President Joe Biden, was selected to speak at the inauguration after first lady Jill Biden watched a video of Gorman delivering another original poem, “In This Place: An American Lyric,” at the Library of Congress.
Of the trio of pandemic heroes Gorman spoke about, The Associated Press reported last month that Davis went out of his way to acquire “devices and internet access” for his students and their families in Los Angeles during the pandemic and even “hosted tech workshops to help people learn how to use the devices.”
Dorner, an ICU nurse manager at Tampa General Hospital, is representative of “health care workers across the country,” and Martin “helped veterans, high school athletes and local youth connect virtually through the Wounded Warrior Project and by livestreaming events in Pittsburgh.” He also “volunteered to livestream every home football game for Aliquippa High School so families could watch” and took in “needy children in his neighborhood.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that he believes Davis, Dorner and Martin “exemplified the essence of leadership, each in their own way,” and added that the NFL is “grateful for their commitment and proud to share their stories and recognize them during this special moment on Super Bowl Sunday.”
CORRECTION: Amanda Gorman was the first national youth poet laureate, chosen in 2017. The current titleholder, chosen in 2020, is Meera Dasgupta.