Best known for her poems and essays, Maya Angelou was a Rennaisance woman. She died on Wednesday at the age of 86.
As a poet, author, playwright, director, performer, actress, professor, producer, singer and civil right's activist, "I have created myself," she told USA Today. "I have taught myself so much."
Many of us read her best known book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in school. Published in 1969, it lyrically recounted her years growing up in the Jim Crow South. The memoir was one of the first autobiographies by a 20th century black woman to reach a general readership.
In addition to her six volumes of autobiographies, Angelou wrote iconic poems including "Still I Rise," which Nelson Mandela read aloud at his presidential inauguration.
Angelou received her most national attention in 1993 when she recited the poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration.
Courtesy; William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
Angelou's powerful words are not in danger of losing their relevance. Her brilliance, admired by generations, holds a particular resonance when viewed through the lens of youth. Angelou's best advice can teach us how to live our lives better. Here are some of her greatest insights on what it means to live.
1. On personhood
"I speak to the Black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition — about what we can endure, dream, fail at and survive."
2. On history
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
3. On change
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
4. On the meaning of life
"Be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud."
5. On courage
"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."
6. On self-respect
"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."
7. On trusting yourself
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
8. On truth
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
9. On a life well lived
"I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life."
10. On forgiveness
"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody."
11. On perseverance
"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
12. On kindess
"People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
13. On common ground
"We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike."
14. On individuality
"If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
15. On changing lives
"The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible."
16. On love
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
17. On courage
"Have enough courage to trust love one more time. And always one more time."
18. On wellness
"Nothing will work unless you do."
19. On being true to yourself
"We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay — and rise!"
Correction: May 28, 2014