Honorary Degree Citation
Richard Blanco. Civil engineer, teacher, and, above all, poet. Not only do you speak up for the extraordinary value of human diversity, you embody it. The fifth inaugural poet in our country’s history and the youngest person ever so designated, you are the first immigrant, the first Latino, and the first openly gay writer to fill that prestigious role. Your poem “One Today,” which you read at President Obama’s second inauguration, celebrates the diversity of America under one sun, one light, one sky. “Boston Strong,” written and performed to benefit those most affected by last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, predicted that this spring, we all would see that Boston is “the city still a city, but a whole lot stronger.” Your collections of poetry and your recent memoir use language in all its contradictory, musical, and emotional complexity, realizing its capacity to articulate the human journey in terms far beyond the merely discursive. Winner of numerous literary prizes and honors, you are a poet of stories, a poet of humor, a poet of original perception, a poet of courage, a poet of love. Your generous and bright-hearted way of saying how it feels to be fully present in two or more places at once is an inspiration in our country of immigrants. Your commitment to the art of poetry is a legacy to all the young poets and writers who will follow your lead and deploy the music of language to turn their urges, insights, losses, and loves into, as you wrote, the “strangely familiar, old yet new, sharp yet dull, bright yet muted, like those few minutes some mornings in bed with half my life still in a dream and the other half of me being born anew into the miracle of yet another morning.”
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Richard Blanco, the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are the visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 25, 2014