We had the pleasure of having a distinguished guest on the show, Ricard Blanco, the inaugural poet for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. One of only five inaugural poets ever selected, and the only gay and Latino poet to recite a poem at a President’s inauguration, Richard spoke to us about this great honor and the work he has done to help unite all Americans through the written word. Here are some nuggets of wisdom we learned from Richard:
*He was selected to be the Obama’s Inaugural Poet Out of the Blue: There was no competition, no notice, no formal process for being selected as the Inaugural Poet. He was simply called by the administration to write three poems for President Obama, and they selected “One Today,” a poem about how all Americans—from all backgrounds—can unite to make this a great country. According to Richard, presenting his poem and speaking personally with President Obama for over twenty minutes was one of the greatest honors of his life.
*His grandmother wanted him to be a “man”: In his funny and poignant memoir, The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, Richard talks about being raised by a traditional Cuban grandmother who constantly told him to be more “manly.” His grandmother bribed him to go to a Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration) with a girl, and told him that American oatmeal wasn’t manly. Although he loved his grandmother, Richard started to explore who he was and what he belonged to during his upbringing. In the end, he went from hating, forgiving, and then loving his grandmother in his inspiring coming-of-age story.
*His advice to writers and readers: Journal and write something every day. Even if you never publish it, you will learn something new about yourself, relationships, and the world. Writing makes it so that life doesn’t pass you by—you press the pause button, and question your existence, as you make amazing discoveries along the way. The power of the written word is that you learn how to accept yourself. The power for the published writer is that your words can live forever—in the heart and souls of those who read your work.
*Find time for life: In our busy world, you may say, “I don’t have enough time.” Instead, you can say to yourself that you have time for the really important things in your life—for your loved ones, your craft, your personal health and happiness, and to give love to others.
In the end, as Richard eloquently expressed in his Inaugural poem, we are all One. Regardless of our gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, age, or socio-economic status, we are all Americans who live in the US, we are all humans on the planet, and we are all souls in the higher existence. Our ideal aim is to live in the country of our choice—peacefully, lovingly, and happily—by contributing to make it a better place for all.