Two-time FIU alumnus and associate professor of creative writing Richard Blanco on Tuesday received the National Humanities Medal for his contributions to American poetry.
President Joe Biden conferred the honor on the engineer-turned-poet alongside other recipients – writers, historians, educators and activists – in a White House ceremony.
Blanco, who currently serves as the first poet laureate of Miami-Dade County, recalls that the inital message he received about the award, from the National Endowment for the Humanities, elicited the same question as did a phone call, from the White House, to compose an original poem to read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration: “What had I done to deserve this honor?”
Born in Madrid and raised in Miami, Blanco is known for poetry that takes the themes of identity, place and belonging and often writes about his Cuban heritage and experiences as a gay man in America.
“I’ve always strived for my life’s work to humbly serve humanity,” Blanco said. “This great honor is an incredible recognition of that effort. I believe that the arts and humanities are key to helping us recognize the innate connections we all share.”
The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities and broadened citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities subjects.
Blanco plans to use this honor along with his existing platform to advocate for the arts and humanities, in hopes of lighting a spark for future generations.
Christine Calvo contributed to this story