WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (AP) — Maya Angelou is being remembered as a poet, orator and sage.
At a memorial service at Wake Forest University today, former President Bill Clinton said Angelou (MY’-uh AN’-juh-loh) lived enough to experience five lifetimes. He recalled how Angelou was a single mother at 17 and San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor before becoming a civil rights leader and an accomplished writer. Clinton likened Angelou to a firefly, saying she would light up at the most unpredictable times and show you something in your mind you had been burying or something in your heart you were afraid to face.
First lady Michelle Obama remembered Angelou as the first person who let her know she could be a strong, powerful and smart black woman. She said reading Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” changed a little black girl whose first doll was Malibu Barbie by celebrating “black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before.”
Oprah Winfrey says she struggled to put what Maya Angelou (MY’-uh AN’-juh-loh) meant into words, then realized she owed the poet not words, but actions. A sometimes tearful Winfrey called Angelou her spiritual queen mother, saying she always took notes when they spoke on the phone. Winfrey concluded that while she cannot fill Angelou’s shoes, she can walk in her footsteps.
Angelou died last week at age 86.
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