Though it’s been nearly two years since her passing, Maya Angelou’s impact on poetry and literature, civil rights, women’s rights, education, and so much more continue to be strongly felt. Angelou had a way of bringing literary insight to the human condition and was always an open book, sharing her own struggles with sexual abuse, racism, and inequality — all of which she managed to overcome to become one of the most influential cultural figures in American history. Here are some of the most powerful and inspiring things Angelou said and wrote throughout her illustrious life, in honor of what would have been her 88th birthday today.
On dealing with with disappointment.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
On the importance of living positively.
“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
On making a lasting impression.
“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.”
On the power of courage.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
On her life’s purpose
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
On the power of generosity
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
On our shared humanity.
“I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
On looking inward.
“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!”