Renowned poet Richard Blanco shared with Upper School students his incredible journey from Cuban immigrant in Miami to inaugural poet at President Obama's second inauguration. Blanco, one of just five people to serve in that role, read his inaugural poem "One Today" and several others during a Dec. 12 assembly at the Lewis Family Auditorium.
Born in Madrid but raised in Miami, Blanco explained his life journey largely through poems he had written over the years, and which he read to Upper School students. Blanco attended Christopher Columbus High and then pursued engineering at Florida International University. He worked for several years as a civil engineer before returning to FIU to earn an MFA in creative writing. His first book, City of a Hundred Fires, received national acclaim and allowed him to pursue poetry full time.
Blanco explained how his struggle to find his home, place and identity in the United States – as a Cuban immigrant, Hispanic and gay man – influenced his poetry.
"Every poet's work comes back to one central obsession," he said. "For me, that obsession comes down to one single word, and that is 'home.'"
Blanco has taught at American, Georgetown and Wesleyan universities; received a number of honorary doctorates; and won a host of poetry prizes and awards. When President Obama invited him to write a poem for his inauguration in 2013, Blanco joined elite company that includes Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. For the event, he crafted "One Today."
"The poem is, in a way, a response to the questions of home," he said. "All of our narratives in some way belong to that American story – whether they have been acknowledged or ignored is a different story ... The greatest gift of the inauguration was realizing that I was home all along, that my story was part of the American story."
After the morning assembly, members of RE's poetry club escorted Blanco to lunch. He remained on campus that afternoon to serve as a guest lecturer in a number of classes, then offered a workshop for faculty immediately after school.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.