Former Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera Receives UCLA Medal

Published: November 2, 2017

Alumnus shares stories of how campus shaped his worldview and his work

Jessica Wolf | 

n a speech at Royce Hall that highlighted UCLA’s second annual Humanities Forum on Diversity, Race and Immigration, Juan Felipe Herrera reminisced about how the campus helped shape his worldview as an artist during the civil rights era and offered meditations on diversity.

The former U.S. poet laureate returned to his alma mater Oct. 30 to accept the UCLA Medal, the campus’s highest honor.

“The kind of society we want to build is built this way — the way we are today,” Herrera said. “It is built by coming together in a common purpose, a heart purpose, to build that society that we have longed for, that we are trying to protect, that we don’t want to lose. Sometimes we get a little nervous and almost hopeless — until we come together.”

Herrera, poet laureate from 2015 through September 2017, was the first Latino person to receive that honor. He also was among the first Latino students to attend UCLA on scholarship, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology.

The UCLA Medal was presented by Chancellor Gene Block, who praised Herrera’s achievements as both an artist and an activist.

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