My first introduction to Maya Angelou was on Sesame Street when I was a little girl. She was a guest and shared some of her poetry and ideas. I was transfixed. She immediately represented to me what a woman should be.
As I got older, I began to more fully appreciate what her life and work meant to the world. She was one of a handful of people who has truly changed everything.
I never had an opportunity to meet her in life, so rather than philosophize, I will let her own words speak for themselves.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
“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”
“Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.”
“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
“I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh.”
"I think that is what art is supposed to do. Help us to save our lives and to grow."
"We should all be movable when we see misery, discomfort, a need in another human being. We turn away, that's when should turn back and say that's a human being, just like me."
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
"The idea of overcoming is always fascinating to me. It's fascinating because few of us realize how much energy we have expended just to be here today. I don't think we give ourselves enough credit for the overcoming."
"The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination."
"Nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone."
“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.”
“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.”
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
"When we decide to be happy we accept the responsibility to bring happiness to someone else. "
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
"Thank you, always say thank you; it's the greatest gift you can give someone; because thank you is what you say to God."
"Give me your hand. Make room for me to lead and follow you beyond this rage of poetry."
"My pencil halts and will not go along that quiet path."
"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”
"Then you rose into my life, like a promised sunrise. Brightening my days with the light in your eyes. I've never been so strong. Now I'm where I belong"
"My spirit is the surge of open seas. Look for me, ask for me, I am the rustle in the autumn leaves."
“We need much less than we think we need.”
“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face.”
“When we find someone who is brave, fun, intelligent, and loving, we have to thank the universe.”
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
"Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I rise."
"Nothing will work unless you do."
"Life doesn't frighten me at all."
"I'd call a place pure paradise where families are loyal and strangers are nice."
"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
"My wish for you is joy. When you wish someone joy, you wish peace, love, prosperity, health, happiness... all the good things.
"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."
"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.”
"In a world of confusion and noise, I look for the moments that help me understand who I am, where I come from and what I want to be."
"You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated."
"If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution."
"Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else."
“Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.”
“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you've got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”
“Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.”
"Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women."
"I work all the time. I don't know how not to work. I'm not complaining. I play hard, too."
“Making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.”
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
“We need to remember that we are all created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.”
“When you do nothing you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”
“A person is the product of their dreams. So make sure to dream great dreams. And then try to live your dream.”
“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.”
“Determine to live life with flair and laughter.”
"Continue to plant a kiss of concern on the cheek of the sick and the aged and infirm and count that actions as natural and to be expected."
"Have enough courage to love."
"Let me tell so much truth, I want to tell the truth in my work. The truth will lead me to all."
"Hope is born again in the faces of children"
“You should never make someone a priority who views you as an option.”
“In all my work what I try to say is that as human beings we are more alike than we are unalike.”
"Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive, that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment to others."
"If we have someone who loves us—I don't mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side—then it's easier to grow resilience."
"I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision."
"The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear"
"A woman is careful with judgment, is courteous, has courage and is much given to kindness, support and respect for other women."