Gov. Hochul’s Invites 9-Year-old Poet To Perform at Inaugural Ceremony

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Nine-year-old Kayden Hern received a personal from Gov. Kathy Hochul to be the poet laureate of her inaugural ceremony, per ABC 7 News. He just began writing poetry during the pandemic through encouragement of his grandmother. His work landed him a gig most have waited years for.

Poem reciting was not a typical feature of political events until Amanda Gorman performed at the 2020 presidential inauguration with her profound poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman’s piece was inspired by the impact of the 2020 pandemic and the reignited fight for social justice. Though, Hern was also left shaken by what was happening in the world, leading him to put his pen to paper as well.

“He would ask questions about racism, about school, about … in the old-fashioned days, what was going on?” said Hern’s grandmother via CBS News. “And I told him what [was] going on, and we just started writing things together.”


The fourth grader went on to perform at an amateur night at the Apollo Theater, where he ran into Gov. Hochul.

Read more about it from CBS6 Albany:

You wonder how we found a Poet Laureate? Well, to find a Poet Laureate, you have to walk the streets of Harlem. I was outside the Apollo Theater, it was Amateur Night. I was checking it out, we were just giving them some money. And there’s a long line around the block, and I saw this young man standing there. I said, “You’re going in to watch somebody?” He goes, “No, I’m a poet. I’m going to go recite.

Okay. So I said, “What’s your poem?” I figured he’d whip out a piece of paper and read it to me. He had memorized it. And he gave me a poem and I said, I stood there on the spot and I said, “If I win this election, you are my Poet Laureate and I want you here.”


Sunday evening, Hern leaned on his toes to reach the microphone, looked over the podium into the crowd of politicians and attendees and recited his poem titled “In My Mind.”

“In my mind, I used to be a child of poverty, not knowing that hopes and dreams can become reality. In my mind, I thought it was fine to sit in the back of the classroom because my teacher never asked me to read or write. But, little did she know, I was ever so bright,” he recited. “In my mind, I heard my ancestor cry. They helped clear the path so others do not have to die.”


Hern’s words were wise and in a way, heartbreaking. Children now recognize the struggle of being Black in America younger and younger. However, Hern told CBS he has big plans for his work and wants to use his poetry to spread positivity.

“- other people could recognize me and it could be the president. You never know,” he said.