Poet Richard Blanco Becomes First Hispanic and First Openly Gay Person To Address Inaugural
Poet Richard Blanco is the first Hispanic and first openly gay poet to deliver the inaugural poem, and at 44, he also happens to be the youngest.
Blanco orated his original poem "One Today," that was crafted specifically for President Obama's second inauguration. Within the poem was an idea of national camaraderie, which he depicted through beautiful microcosms of everyday life, and also through the illustration of the "impossible vocabulary of sorrow." While there were some on inauguration day whose opinions on Blanco's poem were negatively affected by the lack of rhyme, his prose poem, in keeping with the theme of the day, weaved modern idealism with traditional values.
Coupled with Obama's mention of Stonewall alongside Selma and Seneca Falls and his open embrace of the idea that all couples deserve the right to marry, Blanco's role as the inaugural poet provided for a truly historic day for the gay rights movement. Like President Obama's 2004 DNC speech, Blanco delivered a message of unity while reflecting on the singularity of his own life experience. His reference about how his mother would “ring up groceries, for twenty years, so I could write this poem, for all of us, today,” was especially poignant.
Although born in Madrid, Blanco immigrated and grew up in Florida with his Cuban-exile family. While he praises the hard work of his parents in "One Today," Blanco's grandmother abused him throughout his childhood with the implication that he was not manly enough. In a piece published by The University of Wisconson Press, Blanco recounts what it was like growing up in fear of punishment for simply being who he was. While much of what he says in the piece is cloaked in the sadness of rejection, Blanco also manages to credit his grandmother with making him the poet he is today. If he hadn't become an observer rather than a participant in life, he's unsure if he would have seen the things he now immortalizes in his words.
Click here for the full text of Blancos "One Today," or watch him reciting the poem below:
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