Embracing our diversity and common humanity as one country

The 2020 Presidential Symposium on Diversity will feature Richard Blanco, the fifth and youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, who will discuss his book of poems, “How to Love a Country.”

“How to Love a Country”

EducatedAs a poet, public speaker, teacher and memoirist, Richard Blanco touches the hearts of his audiences as he shares his poetry across the country and the world. Through his transformative words, Blanco helps us to see beyond our differences and reconnect with each other through our shared experiences. His most recent book of poems, “How to Love a Country,” examines both our nation’s past and present injustices, celebrates our ideals and asserts that America could be place where all narratives will come together as one.

Event Details

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
12:30 - 2 p.m. – presentation with Q&A
Live virtual event via Zoom

This event is free and open to the community; however, pre-registration is required. Please register by October 18 at 11:59 p.m. Once you've secured your seat(s), a link to the live event will be emailed to you on October 19. To help us track the number of participants in attendance, indicate the number of people in your party by selecting the appropriate quantity (QTY).

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Poetry Contest

We invite you to share your own original poems or song lyrics and accompanying music about your experiences and sense of belonging in this country.

Contest details
  • All Montco students and employees are eligible to enter.
  • The maximum length is 2 pages, double-spaced, for either a poem or lyrics to a song. If a participant wishes to submit musical accompaniment to the lyrics, please email a link.
  • All participants must be willing to sign a waiver for the College to be able to print their work. Please submit along with your contest entry. Download form (PDF).
  • Starting date for Contest: July 15, 2020
  • All contest submissions and signed waivers must be emailed to mparkins@mc3.edu with the subject line “Poetry Contest” by October 1, 2020.
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About Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco in a white sweaterBorn in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents, Richard Blanco and his family immigrated to New York City while he was an infant and then moved to Miami, Florida, where he grew up in a close-knit Cuban community. In 1991, he earned his civil engineering degree from Florida International University.

In his mid-twenties, he returned to Florida International University, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing in 1997. He published his first book of poetry, “City of Hundred Fires,” in 1998. The book garnered the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, and he decided to leave the engineering field to teach creative writing at the Central Connecticut State University, where he met his partner, Dr. Mark Neveu.

Thereafter, Blanco traveled extensively, moved to Guatemala and then to Washington, DC, in 2002. He published his second book, comprised of poems relating to his journeys, in 2005. The book, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead,” received the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center.

His next book, “Looking for the Gulf Motel,” was published in 2012, after he moved to Bethel, Maine. While he was living here, he received the phone call from President Barack Obama to serve as the fifth inaugural poet, following in the footsteps of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Blanco wrote the poem, “One Today,” which he read during the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 21, 2013. In his book, “For All of Us, One Today,” published in 2013, he describes his experience as inaugural poet.

Since the inauguration, Blanco was named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, and received an honorary doctorate from Macalester College. He continues to connect communities to poetry through the art of occasional poetry, and to help heal the emotional pain following the Boston Marathon bombings, Blanco wrote “Boston Strong, which he read at benefit concert.

In his book, “The Prince of los Cocuyos,” published in September 2014, Blanco shares his story as a child of Cuban immigrants and his endeavors to understand and embrace his identity. His most recent book, “How to Love a Country,” was published in 2019. Blanco was the keynote speaker for the MCCC’s Presidential Symposium in 2015.