Maine poet and author Richard Blanco received a National Humanities Medal from President Biden on Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House.

Blanco, who lives in Bethel, was one of 12 individuals selected to receive the medal. Recipients include writers, historians, educators and activists from across the United States. First lady Dr. Jill Biden also planned to attend the ceremony, which was livestreamed.

Blanco is an award-winning poet, author, professor and public speaker and a son of Cuban immigrants. He gained recognition in January 2013 when he delivered President Barack Obama’s second inauguration day poem, “One Today,” before hundreds of thousands gathered on the National Mall.

Poet and author Richard Blanco receives a National Humanities Medal from President Biden on Tuesday. Image from video

The poem referenced the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and paid tribute to his Cuban American parents while acknowledging American diversity and inclusiveness. He became the first Latino and first openly gay man to deliver the inaugural poem. Blanco and his partner moved from Miami to Bethel 15 years ago.

Since 2013, the 54-year-old Blanco has written several poems marking specific events including “Boston Strong,” written in 2013 following the Boston Marathon bombing, and “Matters of the Sea” in 2015 about the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Earlier this year, Blanco collaborated with fellow Cuban American writer Vanessa Garcia on a play called “Sweet Goats and Blueberry Senoritas,” which premiered at Portland Stage on Jan. 25. It was Blanco’s first attempt at writing a play. Artistic director Anita Stewart said the theater was looking for Maine-based writers and stories to support and thought Blanco would be the perfect fit, even though plays were not his medium of choice.

The National Humanities Medal, which was created in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened Americans’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities.

“The National Humanities Medal recipients have enriched our world through writing that moves and inspires us; scholarship that enlarges our understanding of the past; and through their dedication to educating, informing, and giving voice to communities and histories often overlooked,” Shelly C. Lowe, chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said in a statement.

The NEH manages nominations for the National Humanities Medal. A panel reviews the nominations and makes recommendations to the president, who selects the recipients.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: