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Maya Angelou: Poet for the Ages

Updated on May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou was invited to read her poetry at Bill Clinton's Presidential inauguration
Maya Angelou was invited to read her poetry at Bill Clinton's Presidential inauguration | Source

A Survivor

Born as Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928, Maya Angelou lived through the worst of the great depression in the south. She was raped as a small child; yet she survived. She did not let that become what defined her.

She rose above everything, and lived a very full life, and learned humility, tolerance, respect and love.

She was an activist for peace, by peaceful means. She was a woman for the ages.

Many Famous Friends

She counted among her friends such illustrious, famous and diverse names as Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Oprah Winfrey.

She wrote verse for Roberta Flak, and spoke by invitation at many public events, including two presidential inaguruations: Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's.

A Multi-Starred Career

Angelou became famous for her poetry, and in particular, her work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. That was her springboard to international fame.

However, many do not know that she was also a singer, dancer and actress. She traveled and performed with many different groups over the years.

But her best role, the role she was best known for was as a teacher. While she never went to college, she earned many honorary degrees, and in her later years was respected and referred to as Dr. Maya Angelou.

Perhaps her greatest honor was being bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.

The End of an Era

With her death on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the world has lost another voice for peace; another of the greats who inspire us to be better people.

Dr. Angelou will be missed both by those who knew her personally, especially her family, but also by the world community. Her name and fame spread far and wide; she ranked among the peacemakers of the world: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and even Mother Theresa.

Her memory and works will be best honored by emulating her example; manifesting gentleness and a calm demeanor and finding a peaceful and honorable way to work out differences. Differences, after all, should be on the level of cultural exchange, and not cause for wars.

My Salute

Ring the bells of peace; ring the bells of sleep; ring the sad bell of mourning.

Woe the day, we lose a friend; woe the day we lose a gentle soul.

Sing out, sing out, let loud voices proclaim

Today we lost a soul; today we sob in sorrow.

Then ring the bells, ring the bells, ring the bells of morning

For the morrow brings fresh light; the morrow starts anew.

To honor the memory; we must act with honor

Tribute paid not in tears but in our actions.

Those who have left us have not,

For they live on in our memories,

In our every thought of them; in their every word we recall

Ring the bells, ring the school bells, ring the bells of knowledge and peace.

Poem © Liz Elias 5-28-14

© 2014 Liz Elias


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