Maya Angelou was often called America’s wise woman, and since her passing on Wednesday at the age of 86, many notable people have shared their remembrances of the poet, civil rights leader and storyteller extraordinaire. In addition to those in the video clip above, a few people in high places also shared their words about their friend. mentor, and favorite writer.
“Above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true,” President Barack Obama said.
“Her gifts were born out of pain,” Patricia Rosier, president of the National Bar Association, said. “This allowed those who came before us and those after us to rise. She was not afraid to fiercely explore her self-identity so that we, too, could fully be who we are.”
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou’s earliest years, and that story alone makes one wonder how she became the woman the country–and the world–will long remember. In it she encompasses difficult topics like racism, rape, literacy, and women living in a male dominated society. After reading the book and then listening to some of Angelou’s brilliant poetry, it is clear she evolved. But what an evolution, and how difficult that evolution must have been.
Marc Morial is president of the National Urban League. He recalls sitting with Maya Angelou in her kitchen and talking with her for hours. He called the conversation an “incredibly powerful experience.”
“With equal parts majesty and humility, she held court — and I listened intently, absorbing every word and meaning that she had to impart,” he said.
Hillary Clinton shared one of her memories via a Twitter post.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 30, 2014
Even country superstar Toby Keith weighed in on Maya Angelou–not so much with a personal memory but with a fond remembrance.
The world has lost a great American poet. Godspeed Maya Angelou. – T
— Toby Keith (@TobyKeithMusic) May 29, 2014
Rev. Jesse Jackson said of his dear friend that “she has much to teach this generation and generations unborn about what it means to be an authentic person, and the power of the genuine.”
His words certainly ring true. Maya Angelou has indeed left her earthly life but has left behind a legacy in her mastery of the English language. Everyone can read her works and then walk away from her words a bit richer and with a bit more wisdom.
Hopefully everyone who remembers her will do exactly that–and perhaps they will all take it one step further, too. If every person who treasured Maya Angelou would simply perform one act of selflessness in her name, perhaps even more of her legacy will live on.
Image via Wikimedia Commons