Maya Angelou was one of America’s most beloved and celebrated poets and authors, with dozens of awards and over 50 honorary degrees attesting to her inspirational role at the center of American life. In 1993, she was invited to recite her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, making her the first poet since 1961 to deliver an inaugural recitation. Her lifetime of achievement was rewarded in 2000 when she received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010 President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the country’s highest honors.
The famed author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), the first of her seven autobiographies for which she became known, lived a long and storied life. We know her well as a memoirist, essayist and poet, who authored several books of poetry, three books of essays, and a list of plays, movies, and television shows. She was also a journalist who worked in Africa, a historian, songwriter, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer and singer. And as an activist, she was one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most prominent women, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and devoted her life to being a tireless voice for women and black people — and for an open-hearted vision of humanity where all could find their place. On May 28, 2014, the great Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86, leaving a legacy that will surely be cherished for many decades to come.
We’ve gathered 25 of Maya Angelou’s most powerful and insightful quotes, hoping that it injects a hearty dose of beauty and inspiration into your day. Enjoy!
- 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.
- You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
- We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
- I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
- You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.
- If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
- We need much less than we think we need.
- If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?
- Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
- I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
- Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.
- If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
- Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.
- Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
- A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
- You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
- Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.
- If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
- Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.
- Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
- There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
- 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.
- When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
- If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
- We are only as blind as we want to be.