Acclaimed poet Richard Blanco was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Delaware Arts Summit, presented by the Delaware Division of the Arts, held in the Rollins Center of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino Monday afternoon.
Blanco ─ who was thrust into the limelight after delivering his speech "One Today" at President Obama's second swearing-in in January ─ aimed to inspire the crowd of approximately 200 people to reach their goals through his speech that featured sevaral of his poems, tales of his humble beginnings growing up in a lower-middle income family in Florida with his Cuban immigrant parents, and background on his longtime career as an engineer.
Kristin Pleasanton, art and artist services coordinator for DDOA, says Blanco was sought after as the keynote speaker because he personifies the theme of this year's summit, which is "mission possible," or nothing is impossible.
"I think that was one of his messages; if he could do it, anyone could it," Pleasanton said. "We try to [bring] someone prominent in the arts, someone who's currently working and having an impact."
Blanco told those in the audience that being a poet has made him a better engineer. He said he encourages anyone and everyone to take an art class, even if they're not an artist, because it will still enrich their lives.
"As a poet, you learn to be a very good reader of human nature and of human behavior," Blanco said during an interview following his speech. "[With] writing in general, you can learn how to read situations and learn how to read people emotionally."
As an engineer, Blanco learned how to emotionally connect with clients, and doing so "made my clients happy, and it got me jobs," he smiled.
Richard Grenfell, executive director of First State Ballet in Wilmington, applauded Blanco's words.
"It was moving," Grenfell said. "It was personal. I thought it was fascinating that he observed that being an engineer has made him a better poet and being a poet has made him a better engineer."
Jessica Jenkins, manager of marketing and public relations for Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, found Blanco's speech personally uplifting.
"It makes me want to get back into the studio to paint," Jenkins said. "But working full time, you don't always have the time to dedicate to other interests. But knowing that somebody else has done that, and is still doing it, is very inspiring. That's why I'm so inspired by his talk."
When interviewed by the Dover Post and asked what advice he'd offer to someone interested in working in the arts as a full-time job, Blanco said, "You just have to keep at it. It's very simple but it's really [important] to always continue your commitment to it and also to make decisions in your life that support that passion" and "build your life around it, in a very practical way.
Page 2 of 2 - "I was an engineer, but I also worked 30 hours a week so I could write and also do readings," he added. "The idea is to never lose sight of that dream and to keep it going. You never know what will happen."