TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a voice that is so soothing and commands an individuals’ full attention, world-renowned poet and author Maya Angelou spoke to a crowd of nearly 6,000 people with songs, poetry, stories and words of wisdom at Florida A&M University (FAMU) as part of the University’s Lyceum Series.
During her presentation, Angelou pointed out that she wanted to speak at FAMU because the institution is a “light in the sky, a rainbow in the clouds.” Angelou continued by saying there are many institutions that young people can aspire to attend, but in some places in the country young people think they will never make it to a university.
“Each one of us has been capable of being rainbows in the cloud, and some of us because of institutions called HBCU,” said Angelou.
Although Angelou said some people could be wiser, hipper, prettier, richer or more educated than others, she stressed that no human being can be more human than another human being.
“When you go into your classrooms do not go in being intimidated by anything that human beings do,” Angelou said.
The famed poet also told students just as they have encountered rainbows in their clouds, they have to be rainbows for others.
“When you get, give,” said Angelou. “When you learn, teach.”
Following her presentation, Angelou answered a few questions from the audience. She was asked how she would feel when she receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest medal given to a civilian in our nation, on February 15.
“I will be excepting it [Presidential Medal of Freedom] for every African that stepped off a slave ship in 1619 and for every Italian, Asian, Greek, Spanish, Muslim, Arab and Jew,” said Angelou. “And to except it from a black president, I may fall to my knees.”
FAMU Lyceum Series is a university-sponsored program that brings artists, lecturers and performers to the campus as a way of promoting the cultural arts.
Angelou, who is the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC, has received numerous awards. She has received 65 honorary doctorates; was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000; the Lincoln Medal in 2008; and has received three Grammy Awards. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which includes “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
“The Florida A&M University Lyceum Series is designed to contribute to the social, intellectual, spiritual and moral fabric of our faculty, staff, students and members of our community near and far,” said FAMU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and chair of FAMU’s Lyceum Series. “Dr. Angelou’s accomplishments reflect the purpose of the Lyceum Series. As an author, poet, educator and civil rights activist, she was able to bring a powerful message to our community. She is in a class by herself and her words spoke volumes.”
Angelou did bring a powerful message to FAMU said Michael Jefferson, a sophomore at FAMU from Indianapolis, Ind.
“She was absolutely remarkable,” said Jefferson. “To see and hear her first hand validated my life to service others. She emphasized that no one in the world can stop you from anything; that you should never limit yourself. The greatest limitation is the one that you see in the mirror every morning. Her stories about her life, tribulations, pain and progress truly inspired me.”