15 Memorable Quotes from Maya Angelou, the People's Poet

It is important not to forget wisdom shared, especially the immensely rich words and powerful quotes of a prolific writer, poet, and activist of the stature of Maya Angelou.

Dr Maya Angelou Image for Memorable Quotes from Maya Angelou, the People's Poet

Dr Maya Angelou photo by Robert Deutsch

Maya Angelou, renowned poet and memoirist, whose landmark 1969 bestseller “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” broke ground as one of the first autobiographies by a 20th Century black woman to reach a global audience, died Wednesday 28th May, 2014 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US. She was 86.

Her death, the cause of which was not immediately known, was confirmed by her longtime literary agent Helen Brann. Brann said Angelou had been frail for some time and had heart problems.

Many will remember Angelou, who rose to international acclaim from a poor childhood background in rural (and, at the time, racially hostile) Arkansas, as not just a talented writer and poet with an extensive and impressive literary body of work, but also—as she would put it—a "phenomenal woman" and champion of human dignity and freedom.

On the day it was announced that the legendary poet had passed on, then US president Barack Obama, who had bestowed Angelou the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, said in a statement: “Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.” He added, “She inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.”

While it might seem shallow to remember anyone by listing her quotes, it’s important not to forget the wisdom and inspiration those who have passed on shared when alive, including the wise words of a prolific writer and activist of Dr. Angelou's standing.


Most Memorable and Powerful Maya Angelou Quotes



Here are fifteen of her most memorable quotes that might, perhaps, serve as inspiration to you and yours in both your personal and professional life:


1. "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."


2. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”


3. “What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”


4. "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."


5. “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”


6. “I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”


7. “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass.”


8. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”


9. "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."


10. "Nothing can dim the light which shines from within."


11. “Nothing will work unless you do.”


12. “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”


13. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”


14. "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."


15. "I am a Woman
Phenomenal Woman,
that's me."

Dr Maya Angelou Smile