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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Others Celebrate Maya Angelou at Memorial

At a memorial for Maya Angelou today, former US President Bill Clinton paid his personal tribute to the celebrated writer and Poet, who died last month at the age of 86. Clinton had chosen Angelou to read a poem at his 1st inauguration in 1993. The original composition, 'On the Pulse of Morning', went on to became a best-seller.

Arkansas-born Clinton said he first read 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' in 1970, when he was a law student. 'I was struck dumb,' he said. 'It was set about 25 miles from where I was born. I knew the people she was talking about, I knew about the problems she was facing ... this little kid was paying attention.' He added: 'She may have stopped talking, but she never stopped paying attention.
Clinton, who spoke after rousing music by the Bobby Jones Gospel Choir, said: 'Her great gift in an action-packed life was that she was always paying attention.'  'She was without a voice for 5 years and then she developed he greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice,' Clinton said. 'She had the voice of God. And he decided he wanted it back for a while.'

Media mogul, Oprah Winfrey gave a teary address to her 'spiritual queen mother' who taught her 'the poetry of courage and respect'.  She said, 'Angelou had many daughters throughout the world. She made us feel heard, and seen, and loved, and special, and worthy.' She also recalled how Angelou had stood by her side through many tough times, and was always there to offer advice and to remind her to be strong. As she wiped tears from eyes, Oprah said she never stopped learning from Angelou, and said: 'The first time she called me daughter I knew I was home.' 'I can't fill her shoes,' Oprah added, 'but I can walk in her footsteps.'


First Lady Michelle Obama also paid tribute to Angelou, who she first met when the writer appeared at a campaign rally for Barack Obama in 2008. Mrs Obama said as a young woman she had been struck by the power of Angelou's words and how she 'celebrated black women's beauty like no else had ever had the courage to do so before'. 'How desperately black women needed that message. As a young woman, I desperately needed that message,' Mrs Obama said. She said Angelou's words had sustained her 'in every step of my journey', adding: 'They were so powerful they moved a little girl from the South Side of Chicago to the White House.' She touched me, touched all of you, all over the globe, including a white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya and raised her black son to be President.

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