Thousands of People Attend Maya Angelou’s Memorial Service; Bill Clinton, Cicely Tyson, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey Give Moving Speeches


Visitors take photos outside Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, June 6, 2014. Former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are joining First Lady Michelle Obama at a weekend memorial service for poet and author Maya Angelou at Wait Chapel. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

In a moving tribute to Maya Angelou on Saturday former President Bill Clinton said that her greatest gift during her action-packed lifetime was paying attention to life around her and sharing it with everyone.

“She called our attention to the fact that things that really mattered — dignity, work, love and kindness — are things we can all share and don’t cost anything,” Clinton said.

Family, friends and famous admirers gathered Saturday in North Carolina for a memorial service and weekend-long tribute to poet, orator and sage. There were tears and laughter and spiritual revival-style singing to honor Angelou at the private service at Wake Forest University that included more than 2,000 people. Angelou died May 28 at age 86 after a remarkable life with important roles in civil rights and the arts.

“She just kept calling our attention to things, like the little fireflies that come on at unpredictable times and make you see something you might have missed,” Clinton said.

Oprah Winfrey said she remembered the first time she heard the Angelou phrase “God put a rainbow in the clouds.” Winfrey was locked in her bathroom sitting on the toilet crying about something when she called Angelou to cry on her shoulder.

“She wasn’t having it,” Winfrey said of Angelou. “She said, ‘stop it, stop it now.’ ”

Winfrey said Angelou told her “I want you to stop and say thank you, because whatever it is, you have the faith to know that God has put a rainbow in the clouds and you’re going to come out on the other side of whatever it is the better for it.”

“She was always there for me to be the rainbow,” Winfrey said, “And I’m here today to say thank you and to acknowledge to you all and the world how powerful one life can be.”

Said first lady Michelle Obama: “Her words sustained me on every step of my journey,” Obama said. “Words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House.”

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Source: USA Today | Carolyn Pesce

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