Obama Chooses Cuban-American Gay Man As Inaugural Poet

Susan Jones | January 9, 2013 | 9:21am EST
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Richard Blanco, a Cuban-American gay man, has been invited to serve as the Inaugural poet at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Jan. 21. (Photo from Blanco's website)

(CNSNews.com) - A Cuban-American gay man has been invited to serve as the inaugural poet at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Jan. 21.

“I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural,” President Obama said in a statement released by his Presidential Inaugural Committee. "Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”

The committee said Blanco will be the youngest-ever Inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or LGBT person to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony.

Born in Spain to Cuban exiles, Blanco’s parents emigrated to New York City days after his birth and eventually settled in Miami. He now lives in Maine.

"As a writer, Blanco explores the collective American experience of cultural negotiation through the lens of family and love, particularly his mother’s life shaped by exile, his relationship with his father, and the passing of a generation of relatives," the Inaugural Committee's news release said. "His work also explores the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man."

In addition to writing poetry, Blanco has worked to strengthen communities and support neighbors, from working with students on writing and interpreting poems throughout the country to serving as a member of the Bethel, Maine, Planning Board.

According to the committee, "His commitment reflects the ideals of the National Day of Service, and demonstrates that, as President Obama has said, we can all give back to our communities."

As CNSNews.com has reported, President Obama is calling on Americans to perform community service on the Saturday before his inauguration.

"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco said in the statement released by the inaugural committee. “In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story—America’s story, really.  I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry.”

The first inaugural poet was Robert Frost at President Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration. In 1993, at the inauguration of President Clinton, Maya Angelou became the second inaugural poet and the first to read an original poem at an inauguration. She was followed by Miller Williams in 1997 and Elizabeth Alexander in 2009.

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