Clinton Says Angelou Lived "5 Lifetimes in One"

by L. Turner

The poet and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou was remembered on Saturday by Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama in a moving memorial service filled with orators inspired by Angelou's words. Clinton said Angelou, who died in May at age 86, lived "five lifetimes in one." Oprah Winfrey, among others, also spoke at the service to remember Angelou.

The First Lady mentioned that Angelou had inspired people "all across the globe," including a white woman in Kansas. Hint: She's talking about her late mother-in-law, Ann Dunham.

(She) named her daughter after Maya and raised her son to be the first black president of the United States.

Elliott Jones, Maya Angelou's grandson, opened the memorial service by reading one of Angelou's most powerful poems, "Still I Rise." And Bill Clinton predictably made a moving speech — how does this guy deliver every time? — saying Angelou had "the greatest voice on the planet."

God loaned her His voice. She had the voice of God. And he decided he wanted it back for a while.

Angelou memorably recited her poem “On The Pulse Of Morning" at Clinton's 1993 inauguration and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.'s highest civilian award, from Obama in 2011. Hard to honor a poet and artist like Angelou with more words, but Clinton, Obama, and Winfrey managed to do her justice Saturday. We gathered some of their best remembrances:

1. Clinton: Angelou made me think

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Bill Clinton compared Angelou's influence to that of fireflies.

I often thought of her gigantic figure as those fireflies we see during the summer that makes us see something that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. She called our attention to things that really matter like dignity, love and worth. .... something right before your nose you've been overlooking something in your mind you've been burying. Something in your heart you were afraid to face.

2. Obama: Angelou Gave Me Confidence

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One of the world's most powerful and eloquent women, First Lady Michelle Obama attributed her confidence to Angelou's inspiring words.

For me … Maya Angelou’s words [were] so powerful they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House. ... I remember thinking to myself, 'Maya Angelou knows who I am, and she’s rooting for me.' So now, I’m good. I can do this.

3. Oprah: Angelou was my guide

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A tearful Oprah also gave Angelou credit for her growth and self-worth.

She was my spiritual queen mother and in everything that word implies she was the ultimate teacher. She taught me the poetry of courage and respect.