Robert Frost was the first poet at a Presidential inauguration, reading a verse at President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 swearing-in ceremony. You may have heard of the guy.
Richard Blanco became the fifth inaugural poet in history Monday when he addressed President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the nation with his poem “One Today.” The 44-year-old Cuban-American made history as the youngest, first Hispanic and first openly gay inaugural poet.
You couldn’t have asked for a tougher assignment… but Blanco, who graduated from FIU with a civil engineering degree before later turning to writing and teaching, proudly and confidently delivered. His poem — a celebration of America’s shared identity — fit the monumental occasion perfectly.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
The power of poetry.