Richard Blanco, the President’s Inagural Speech, and the New America

As I stated previously in a post about Richard Blanco reading at the Inauguration, I think he is the most fitting choice to have read at the Inauguration today. A Cuban-American and gay man, Blanco is a prime example of the changing demographics of the U.S., a new America that is much more diverse. Furthermore, Blanco’s poetry, especially his latest collection, Looking for the Gulf Motel, is all about what it means to be American. His poems , which usually mix Spanish and English, reference his working-class parents and his struggle with identity.

His poem read today, written specifically for the Inauguration, references his personal history, including his father’s working-class hands and his mother’s grueling jobs to provide a better family for their children. The lines very much represent the promise of America, the idea of coming here as an immigrant and carving out a better life for one’s self.  Beyond that, it referenced the recent tragedy of Newtown, the 20 names that will be forever marked absent.

As for President Obama’s speech, I found it bold, even a robust defense of liberalism, especially when he referenced Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, an acknowledgement of the struggle over labor rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights and the progress and equality achieved over the last several decades. Beyond that, I’m glad he continually referenced the constitutional phrase “We the people,” and how progress is made through movements and coming together. Finally, I was thrilled the president vowed “we will act” on climate change and  immigration.

Here is a video of Blanco’s speech.


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