In this July 2, 2019, file photo, Richard Blanco speaks during an event at the Bangor Arts Exchange. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Poet Richard Blanco has been chosen to deliver the speech for the graduation ceremony at Colby College on May 23.

Blanco was the fifth poet to speak at a presidential inauguration, and delivered the poem “One Today” at former President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. He received an honorary degree from Colby in 2014, the Waterville Morning Sentinel reported.

Blanco told the Waterville newspaper that he hoped to present something poetic, and that he may compose an original poem to celebrate this year’s graduates.

“There’s a way poetry can speak to our times right now, when we’re most confused, heart-wrenched, what we’re going through as a country. Poetry can offer us language, different ways of thinking and a new perspective that plain old speech can’t,” Blanco told the Morning Sentinel.

Blanco recently published his fourth volume of poetry, titled “How to Love a Country,” in which he explores immigration, racism, gun violence and LGBTQ issues.

Colby officials anticipate that Blanco’s speech will provide inspiration and hope for the 2021 graduating class, which will see 514 students walk the stage to accept their diplomas.

The ceremony will also welcome Charles Terrell, who graduated from Colby in 1970, to deliver a speech at the baccalaureate ceremonies on May 22.

The college will award honorary degrees to Erin French, the owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom; Michael Rosbash, who is an award-winning geneticist and chronobiologist; and Theresa Secord, an award-winning basket maker and founder and director of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.

Graduating students will be able to invite two guests to attend the commencement ceremony, but it will not be open to the public. The event will be livestreamed.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.