01/22/13 - Miami Herald - Poet, priest give Obama's inauguration a Cuban touch
Both men shared a stage Monday with President Barack Obama for his second
inauguration. Both spoke before hundreds of thousands of people on the
National Mall and millions more online and on television. And both have
proud ties to Miami's Cuban community.
A child of Cuban exiles who was raised in Miami, Richard Blanco recited
his poem, One Today, before a frigid but festive inauguration crowd.
"One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the
Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies," Blanco began.
Joining Blanco: Cuban-born Luis Leon, an Operation Pedro Pan veteran, who
delivered the final benediction.
"Gracious and eternal God, as we conclude the second inauguration of
President Obama, we ask for your blessings as we seek to become, in the
words of Martin Luther King, citizens of a beloved community, loving you
and loving our neighbors as ourselves," said Leon, who spoke briefly in
Spanish toward the end of his remarks.
Blanco is the youngest inaugural poet at 44, the first Hispanic (he was
born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami) and the first
gay person to be chosen (he lives with his partner of 12 years in rural
Maine). Other inaugural poets include Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
In his 583-word poem, one of three poems he offered for the ceremony,
Blanco weaved in thoughts about his mother, his immigrant experience and
the beauty of America.
"Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días in the language my mother
taught me - in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips," Blanco said.
In a telephone interview with The Miami Herald after the ceremony, Blanco
said the central message of unity came from growing up in Miami in the
1970s, which he described as "an urban village."
"There was a feeling that everybody is essential, and that's how we get
things done," Blanco said. "There is a sense of comunidad, and that's what
I wanted to communicate in the poem but on a larger scale for the whole
Many people watching from South Florida were moved by Blanco's eloquent
"I thought it was very unifying, but still personal," said Liz Buzone, who
was in Blanco's elementary and middle school class at St. Brendan in
Miami. "It was so beautiful the way he described day-to-day simple
Readers told The Miami Herald the most striking images were Blanco's
description of his father working in sugarcane fields and his mother
ringing up groceries to provide for him and his brother.
Bill DelGrosso, a credit manager who grew up in Miami and now lives in New
York City, said he was impressed with Blanco's ability to use rich imagery
of scenes that were both common and unique to Miami.
"There were so many tones that were remarkable," DelGrosso said. "It's odd
that a poet can write something that's so reflective and at the same time
Blanco made what appeared to be a Miami reference when he spoke about the
"Freedom Tower," but he told the Herald in an interview Monday night that
the reference was a nod to the new building rising from the site of the
World Trade Center.
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