Friends and family gathered on Saturday in North Carolina to attend a memorial service in honor of the late author and activist Maya Angelou, who died on May 28 at the age of 86.
Oprah Winfrey, first lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton were among the guests at the ceremony held at Wake Forest University. Angelou was a professor at the North Carolina college for thirty years.
“She had enough experiences for five lifetimes,” Clinton said during the ceremony.
The first lady spoke about meeting the author for the first time at a presidential campaign event in 2008.
“She rolled up like she owned the place — she took the stage as she always did like she’d been born there,” she said. “And I was completely awed and overwhelmed by her presence.”
Winfrey gave a tearful tribute while discussing the guidance Angelou offered throughout the media mogul’s career.
“She taught me the poetry of courage and respect,” she said. “She was always there holding me up to know myself.”
Angelou talents varied from her work as a poet, novelist, dancer, playwright, actor and educator. She is possibly best known for her memoir, “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings.”
In her 1969 autobiography, Angelou writes about growing up in St. Louis, Long Beach, California, and Stamps, Arkansas. The book was controversial for her discussion of going mute at age seven-and-a-half after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She stayed silent for five years, but has said this time period was when she fell in love with language.
Throughout her life, she received more than 50 honorary degrees, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.