Words have power and can set the tone for any occasion. The words of 9-year-old Kayden Hern of Harlem will echo for years to come.
Kayden spoke as poet laureate at the inauguration of New York Governor Kathy Hochul. On New Year’s Day, he performed an original piece he wrote titled, “In My Mind.”
The inspiration for his poem came from his grandmother, Jackie Hern, he told WPIX. It all started with Jackie encouraging him to write his thoughts down, she said. He wrote:
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.
Jackie always encourages her grandson to dream and helps him process complex discussions.
“He would ask questions about racism, about school, about … in the old-fashioned days, what was going on?” Jackie said. “And I told him what (was) going on, and we just started writing things together.”
Kayden met the governor last year when he was waiting to recite at the Apollo Theater. She was making an official appearance and stopped to speak with him.
“There’s a long line around the block, and I saw this young man standing there,” Governor Hochul recounted as part of her inaugural address. “I said, ‘You’re going in to watch somebody?’ He says, ‘No, I’m a poet. I’m going to go recite.'”
Kayden will never forget this moment.
“I was excited,” Kayden recalls. “Yeah, because at the Apollo, I just wanted to take a picture with her. And then she asked me, what do I do? And I said, I draw. I also write poems.”
Kayden was ready and recited his poem on the spot when he first met the governor. She thought he was going to read her something he had written on a piece of paper, but he had memorized his poem.
During their meeting, the governor promised him she would invite him to speak at her inauguration as her poet laureate if she was elected. She kept her word.
“If you … practice, you can do anything,” he said.
Kayden is wise beyond his years. It’s never a bad thing to widen your perspective and take your shot. Dreams are the foundation for success and Kayden hopes his words spread positivity throughout his community and beyond.
Be sure to share this story, and check out Kayden reciting “In My Mind” in the video below.
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