President Barack Obama is one of many who have offered words about Maya Angelou’s death, calling Angelou “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman” in a statement released today.
After news broke that Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86, Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and more released statements reacting to the celebrated poet’s death. Read them below, and check back for updates throughout the day:
President Barack Obama: “When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that ‘No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.’
Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things — an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller — and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking — but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.
Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, ‘flung up to heaven’ — and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.”
Oprah Winfrey: “I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her.
She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”
Quincy Jones: “I am so deeply saddened about the loss of my dear friend, colleague and sister of 46 years, Maya Angelou. From collaborating on two songs on my soundtrack for ‘For Love of Ivy’ in 1968 to delivering her poem ‘Pulse of the Morning’ during the Clinton Inaugural in 1992, working with Maya always brought joy and love. As an author and poet, Maya Angelou’s ability to channel God’s voice and express the feelings deep within all of humanity will never be matched by another. She gave us words when we could find none, and helped us to see clearly when the light was dimmest. Maya would always teasingly say to me, ‘Darling, let’s have ‘lurnch”, and I will always be ready. I will miss her deeply, but I know her presence will always be with us.”
President Bill Clinton: “With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend.
The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace.
I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed.
Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river ‘and the tree and the stone were one.’
Our deepest sympathies are with Guy and his family.”