As many of you know, the world lost one of its most inspirational figures on May 28th, 2014 when Maya Angelou passed in her home at the age of 86. The literary community especially understands not only the magnitude of this loss, but more importantly, the magnitude of her life. Angelou once told us, that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Angelou truly embodies this statement. I’m sure it will be quite some time before any of us forget the beauty and poignancy of her poetry, the power and inspiration of her speeches, or the courage and strength of her autobiographical writing. I’m sure it will be even longer before we forget the progress she made as an advocate for civil rights and women’s equality, how she called us all to be authentic, to rise, to recognize our common humanity. However, even after the impact of her words and deeds begin to fade, the hope, passion, and courage she inspired in the hearts and minds of millions from myriad backgrounds will remain indefinitely.
In her honor, the staff of WAB wishes to acknowledge some of the words that spoke to us most deeply. We hope you feel the same.
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
— From A Letter to My Daughter
.“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
“I rise/I rise/I rise.” The whole poem but especially this excerpt from Still I Rise
— From Phenomenal Woman
And perhaps her most well-known poem:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
You did, Maya.