January 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gays referenced in benediction, inaugural poem

Toward the close of President Obama’s inaugural ceremony, nationally acclaimed poet Richard Blanco, who is gay, read a poem that sounded the themes of American unity and equality. Although his poem didn’t mention LGBT people directly, he made repeated references to inclusiveness and oneness, saying at one point that Americans are “arrayed like rainbows.”

Minutes later, Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, pastor of D.C.’s St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square, mentioned gays in his benediction or closing prayer at the inaugural ceremony.


“With your blessing, we will see that we are created in your image,” he said, referring to God, “whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation immigrant American or daughter of the American revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor.”

Leon served on an interfaith group of local clergy that campaigned for D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in 2009. He was selected by the presidential inaugural committee to deliver the benediction after another minister withdrew from that role. Georgia pastor Louie Giglio, who was initially selected to give the benediction, dropped out after news surfaced that he expressed anti-gay views in the 1990s.

Both Blanco and Leon are Cuban Americans whose families fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba to start new lives in the U.S.

Full text of the poem below:

One Today
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 twenty 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 twenty 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

For more on the festivities and ceremonies, visit our inauguration hub.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Why in Heaven's name would you guys give any acknowledgement to those signs that say God hates fags….. It makes no sense…. Acknowledging them gives them exactly what they want…. Its time to stop giving them anymore attention…. anymore publicity…. Its time to make them disappear from the media….. without the media they have NO power….

    • I hate the westboro meat puppets as much as anybody. However, I've come to see that they've actually been a big influence in helping turn the tide toward tolerance. The more visible they are, the more people see the hate seething from their ever pore. The great majority of middle of the road people see it for the mental illness that it is. I think they've changed quite a few minds along the way in our favor. They've pissed off a lot of people and it's a "enemy of my enemy is my friend" kinda thing. I think they're more of an inconvenient and inappropriate joke at this point and no one actually pays attention to their "message" other than to think how f*cked up it is. People can see the batshit crazy and tell what the truth is on their own.

  • Paul thomas,wat u say is totally wrong,u dnt knw wat u say,wat I can tell u is that,this people are humans as us,and god diddnt said he hate them,they are also childs of god sir,so stop underestimating others people feelings,coz u would like it if it we’re u or ur chils#sies

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