Remembering Maya Angelou

Posted by Evan Ryan
May 28, 2014
Dr. Maya Angelou at the Department of State on November 21, 2008

Dr. Maya Angelou, a beloved American poet, author, actor, director, professor, and Civil Rights activist, has died at the age of 86.  Dr. Angelou began her association with the State Department in the 1950’s.  Originally cast in Truman Capote and Harold Arlen’s musical “House of Flowers,” she opted instead to tour 22 countries in Europe and Africa as a dancer in a State Department production of the Gershwin folk opera “Porgy and Bess.”  She became a member of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange alumni community following her Fulbright 40th Anniversary Distinguished Lecturer grant in 1986, during which she lectured in Liberia on American Literature. 

Dr. Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and And Still I Rise, was a Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. At President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration ceremony, she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” She was the second poet to present at a presidential inauguration; her recording of the poem later won a Grammy in the “Best Spoken Word” category.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. On February 15, 2011, she was awarded the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Dr. Angelou said she learned that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Countless people around the world, though, will remember what Dr. Angelou said, what she did, and -- above all else -- how she made them feel: inspired.

Through her illustrious career, she inspired a passion for lifelong education and the arts.  Her words encouraged countless people around the world, and comfort us even today.  She wrote that “when great souls die,” our senses remind us that: “They existed.  They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”

We are better as both a people and a nation because of Dr. Angelou’s life and legacy.

About the Author: Evan Ryan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.



Deborah S.
Indiana, USA
May 29, 2014
Bring our Marine detained in Mexico home NOW.
Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
May 29, 2014

This post reminds me of the words of another great doctor/poet/ who inspired people to think;

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” -Dr.Suess

R.I.P. Ms. Angelou

We can do this, so long as we remember our joy.

Maureen V.
Massachusetts, USA
May 30, 2014
The rare person who could transcend barriers broken and remake the bridge despite the suffering endured. That is my take on Maya Angelou. She was real about the state of affairs and she had hope for the future. For me she was not only a writer but a true diplomat and her work will go on. Coincidentally, I just read the" Help Bob Levinson" Facebook page (missing American) and one of her quotes has served as inspiration in a post. Eric in New Mexico thanks for caring and of course, weighing in.
Nicole J.
United States
May 31, 2014
As a Fulbright & US Department of State Alumni, I now realize the responsibility I have to impact society in a positive way. I admire Dr. Maya Angelou and how that one day I can inspire people around the world. I hope that I have more opportunities to impact society in a positive way. I feel honored to be a fellow member. She impacted the alumni community and has left us a big responsibility. Thank you for recognizing the efforts of a fellow alumni. Dr. Maya Angelou lived her life to the fullest. Thank you fellow Fulbrighter!


Latest Stories

December 10, 2016

Why Human Rights Matter

December 10, marks the 68th annual Human Rights Day in which the United States and countries around the world recall… more