The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Wednesday that poet Richard Blanco will be one of five people selected to read an original poem at a President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration. Blanco, 44, will be the first Latino, first openly gay man, and youngest person to serve the role.
Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, joins the ranks of American inaugural poets, that includes legends such as Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.
“It is an honor to have Richard Blanco in our second inauguration,” Obama said in a statement. “His contributions to the fields of poetry and art have paved the way for future generations of writers. Richard’s work is well-suited for an opening that will celebrate the strength and diversity of our great country.”
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“I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco, 44, said in a statement.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Blanco says he feels a personal connection to the President.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Blanco told The New York Times. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”
Obama’s inaugural team has asked Blanco to write three poems, from which they will choose one for him to read out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 21 at Obama’s swearing-in ceremony.
On Tuesday, the committee said it had selected Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church to deliver the benediction at the inauguration.
In the mid-1990s, Giglio reportedly delivered a sermon entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” which advocated for “ex-gay” conversion therapy for gays and lesbians, according to Think Progress.