Poet Maya Angelou Awarded Medal of Freedom

Feb 16, 2011

Writer, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has been awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Obama presented the Wake Forest professor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony yesterday. Mr. Obama said Angelou’s work has spoken to millions:

"By holding on, even amid cruelty and loss, and then expanding to a sense of compassion and ability to love…. By holding on to her humanity, she has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their own lives."

14 others were awarded the Medal of Freedom at the ceremony including civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, basketball legend Bill Russell, civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis, and former President George H.W. Bush, among others.

Towards the end of the ceremony, Mr. Obama placed the medal around Angelou’s neck and gave the smiling poet a kiss on the cheek:

"I won’t try to say it better than Maya Angelou who wrote that, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream.”"