President Obama, awarding Maya Angelou the 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
Maya Angelou, poet, writer, actress, professor, spiritual goddess of freedom and hope
|Maya Angelou inspired hope.|
She said yes, and the Council and the University scurried to organize a grand reception and to invite Washingtonians to attend and to meet this great poet and Renaissance woman. It was a glorious reception. She especially reached out to the young people we had invited.
"What's the secret to becoming a writer," one asked her. "Read, read, read," she said in a dramatic voice, giving the young girl a big hug.
"How do poems come to you? asked another. "Write, write, write," she said with an embracing smile.
The evening went on like that for quite a while. Angelou embodied the spirit of courage she wrote about, that "quality of the human spirit that continues to rise despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." She lifted us up.
No one wanted the evening to end. We all felt blessed to have such a pioneer and poet with us, someone who had lifted herself up and inspired generations of young black people, nascent poets and writers everywhere to do the same.
She was a force. She read her poetry and mingled. "I know why the caged bird sings," she whispered, sharing that intimate insight into the persistence of the human spirit. Her presence, regal and brilliant, filled the room. She was larger than life in some ways. She moved us.
She moved the high and the low, the aspiring and the struggling, young and old. Unforgettable, that's what she was, and always will be. Now she truly is a free bird, rising up in her glory, singing songs of freedom, spreading her wings, embracing the everlasting.
Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems (Random House, 1994).