First Lady Michelle Obama’s remarks at the Memorial Service for Dr Maya Angelou
Thank you so much. (Applause.) My heart is so full. My heart is so full. Bebe — Oprah, why did you do that? Just why did you put me after this? (Laughter.)
To the family, Guy, to all of you; to the friends; President Clinton; Oprah; my mother, Cicely Tyson; Ambassador Young — let me just share something with you. My mother, Marian Robinson, never cares about anything I do. (Laughter.) But when Dr. Maya Angelou passed, she said, you’re going, aren’t you? I said, well, Mom, I’m not really sure, I have to check with my schedule. She said, you are going, right? (Laughter.) I said, well, I’m going to get back to you but I have to check with the people, figure it out. I came back up to her room when I found out that I was scheduled to go, and she said, that’s good, now I’m happy. (Laughter.)
It is such a profound honor, truly, a profound honor, to be here today on behalf of myself and my husband as we celebrate one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known, our dear friend, Dr. Maya Angelou.
In the Book of Psalms it reads: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the Earth.” What a perfect description of Maya Angelou, and the gift she gave to her family and to all who loved her.
She taught us that we are each wonderfully made, intricately woven, and put on this Earth for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine. And when I think about Maya Angelou, I think about the affirming power of her words.
The first time I read “Phenomenal Woman”, I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before. (Applause.) Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever and sassy; they were powerful and sexual and boastful. And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women, but she also graced us with an anthem for all women –- a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.
And, oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young woman, I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie. (Laughter.) That was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head.
Her message was very simple. She told us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead, she said, “Each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.” She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.
Dr. Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey –- through lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers; through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls; through long years on the campaign trail where, at times, my very womanhood was dissected and questioned. For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words –- words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House. (Applause.)
And today, as First Lady, whenever the term “authentic” is used to describe me, I take it as a tremendous compliment, because I know that I am following in the footsteps of great women like Maya Angelou. But really, I’m just a beginner — I am baby-authentic. (Laughter.) Maya Angelou, now she was the original, she was the master. For at a time when there were such stifling constraints on how black women could exist in the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely passionate, unapologetic self. She was comfortable in every last inch of her glorious brown skin.
But for Dr. Angelou, her own transition was never enough. You see, she didn’t just want to be phenomenal herself, she wanted all of us to be phenomenal right alongside her. (Applause.) So that’s what she did throughout her lifetime -– she gathered so many of us under her wing. I wish I was a daughter, but I was right under that wing sharing her wisdom, her genius, and her boundless love.
I first came into her presence in 2008, when she spoke at a campaign rally here in North Carolina. At that point, she was in a wheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. But let me tell you, she rolled up like she owned the place. (Laughter.) She took the stage, as she always did, like she’d been born there. And I was so completely awed and overwhelmed by her presence I could barely concentrate on what she was saying to me.
But while I don’t remember her exact words, I do remember exactly how she made me feel. (Applause.) She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am, and she’s rooting for me. So, now I’m good. I can do this. I can do this.” (Applause.)
And that’s really true for us all, because in so many ways, Maya Angelou knew us. She knew our hope, our pain, our ambition, our fear, our anger, our shame. And she assured us that despite it all –- in fact, because of it all -– we were good. And in doing so, she paved the way for me and Oprah and so many others just to be our good, old, black-woman selves. (Applause.)
She showed us that eventually, if we stayed true to who we are, then the world would embrace us. (Applause.) And she did this not just for black women, but for all women, for all human beings. She taught us all that it is okay to be your regular old self, whatever that is –- your poor self, your broken self, your brilliant, bold, phenomenal self.
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.
That was Maya Angelou’s reach. She touched me. She touched all of you. She touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya, and raised her son to be the first black President of the United States. (Applause.)
So when I heard that Dr. Angelou had passed, while I felt a deep sense of loss, I also felt a profound sense of peace. Because there is no question that Maya Angelou will always be with us, because there was something truly divine about Maya. I know that now, as always, she is right where she belongs.
May her memory be a blessing to us all. Thank you. God bless. (Applause.)
President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. President Obama is leading the nation in remembering its war heroes, the fallen and those still defending the flag, in a Memorial Day tribute
Tony Lee: Solemn Tributes Mark Anniversary Of Boston Marathon Bombing
An emotional year of recovery from the Boston Marathon bombings culminated with a stirring tribute on Tuesday to the victims, survivors and all those who helped the city overcome the tragic events of April 15, 2013. With the families of the four victims of the bombings and their aftermath sitting in the front row of the event hall at Hynes Convention Center, there were speeches from survivors, dignitaries and elected officials, as well as musical interludes led by the Boston Pops Esplanade and the Boston Children’s Chorus. Later, a ceremony in Copley Square included a moment of silence, a flag-raising at the marathon’s finish line and the toll of church bells at 2:50 p.m., the moment the bombs went off exactly one year ago. The theme was set by the first speaker, Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, who began by uttering the words, “There is a rising.” The reference, of course, was to the community’s remarkable rise from the ashes, as well as each of the victim’s personal journeys from pain and sadness to triumph and resolve. “There is no way to walk to Boylston Street without being reminded of the evil spilling of precious blood, the hateful strike on a world treasure,” Walker continued. “But we are also reminded of the amazing capacity of the human spirit to rise in heroism, compassion and sacrifice. “An ascension of the human spirit, left to its own devices, its divine design, it will rise, despite anything, despite everything.”
(The Richard family with Mayor Marty Walsh)
Walker was the first to reference the victims by name. She touched on the remarkable qualities of Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, Sean Collier and 8-year-old Martin Richard, qualities their loved ones retain in their memories. “Although the memories still bring tears to our eyes, our heart aches for those who were lost, it still is a comfort to be here with family and friends who got us through that tragic day,” Menino said. “I want you to hear this solemn promise,” he began. “When the lights are dim, know that our support and love for you will never waver. Whatever you have to do to recover and carry on, know that the people of Boston and I are right there by your side.” Others who were injured graced the stage at the convention center, providing some of the more poignant words of the two-hour event.
First up was Patrick Downes, who — along with his wife — lost their left legs in the attack. Downes discussed the “humbling” degree of love that he and fellow survivors have received over the year. He would not wish the trials of recovery on anyone, but sees merit in the triumphs. “We do wish that all of you, at some point in your lives, feel as loved as we have felt over this last year,” Downes said. He also took comfort in knowing, even if only in spirit, the four “guardian angels” that were lost a year ago. “We will carry them in our hearts. To their families, know that you will never be alone. We remember those who died as pieces of us. The intellectual charm of Lingzi. Sean’s commitment to justice. Krystle’s infectious smile. And the childhood charm of Martin. We will choose to think of them not in association with hate, but forever connected to our commitment to peace. “Peace. That will be their lasting message to us.”
As rain fell and wind blew through the Back Bay, hundreds left the convention center and strolled under umbrellas toward the finish line to help reclaim that territory. With law enforcement officials lining Boylston Street and the stands in front of the Boston Public Library packed, relatives of victims emerged — followed by Menino, Biden, Walsh, Patrick and Grilk — and took a spot in front of the finish line. There, they stood at attention in the rain to take in a rendition of “God Bless America” by noted tenor Ronan Tynan. Then came a moment of silence and bells tolled from the Old South Church, steps from the finish line. An American flag was pulled skyward as the crowd sang the national anthem. MBTA transit police officer Richard Donohue Jr. helped raise the flag high above what Menino labeled as “hallowed ground.” Indeed, a year removed from the unthinkable, there was a rising.