The late author 'changed America for the better,' POTUS says

By Oliver Gettell
February 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Rob Carr/AP; Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama paid their respects to Harper Lee after her death at age 89, declaring that the author “changed America for the better” with her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

“When Harper Lee sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn’t seeking awards or fame,” the Obamas said in a statement released Friday. “She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story about life as she saw it. But what that one story did, more powerfully than 100 speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.”

The Obamas added, “There is no higher tribute we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story — to our students, to our neighbors, and to our children — and to constantly try, in our own lives, to finally see each other.”

President Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, who honored Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, also praised her Friday for her “matchless contributions to humanity and to the character of this country.”

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