“One Today,” the Inaugural Poem (Transcript)

Richard Blanco, 44, is the youngest ever inaugural poet, as well as both the first Latino and first openly gay person to fill the role.

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Richard Blanco, 44, was chosen as the Inaugural poet for Barack Obama’s second swearing-in ceremony. Here is the full text of his poem, “One Today,” which he recited on Monday afternoon before a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Washington:

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper —
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers or save lives —
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for 20 years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of 20 children marked absent
today and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained-glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind — our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables. Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying, hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me — in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country — all of us —
facing the stars hope — a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it — together.


Frank, because you can't understand the poem, you can call it "BS tat" , but for the rest of us, we experienced it from the heart.


noting is cast in stone - this is a poem and it is called a poem - a beautiful poem - a well written and touching poem and it speaks from the heart for all of US as in the USA. 


It's nice but it's not poetry. It seems poetry has been claimed by the same BS tat has stolen art. If you can't do it, just end your lines in odd places and call it done.


This is absolutely beautiful!  If you cannot appreciate it, I would have to wonder about what's between your ears.  


I'm sorry but I'm all Eric Cantor face on this one. Never got poetry and still don't. And I sucked at it in school because I was always looking for the non-existent rhyme without which there seems to me to be no point.


Another Inauguration, another crappy poem. No alliteration, no internal rhyme, no double meanings or puns or any special things that can be done with language. Just a little essay, with lots of line endings and odd capitalizations.


I liked the poem-this part in particular was delivered so well.

"Hear: the doors we open

for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días"


"Richard Blanco, 44, is the youngest ever inaugural poet, as well as both the first Latino and first openly gay person to fill the role"


10 years ago I thought I'd never live to see a black President. Now I'm hoping that I live long enough that race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation are no more important than eye or hair color.




I will take this comment as snark. It is snark, right?!?!?


@LauraSteel re you perhaps confusing a poem with a limerick? 

But I agree it was no "There once was a man from Nantucket..."