Barack Obama, Bill Clinton Honor Maya Angelou After Her Death

05/28/2014 at 01:55 PM EDT

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton Honor Maya Angelou After Her Death
Maya Angelou
Adrian Sherratt/REX USA
Maya Angelou is getting a presidential farewell as the nation's top leaders honor the beloved poet.

The award-winning writer and activist died Wednesday. She was 86.

President Barack Obama, who awarded Angelou the Medal of Freedom in 2011, noted her many accomplishments and how she inspired his family.

"Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya," President Obama said in a statement. "With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya's day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, 'flung up to heaven' – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."

In 1993, Angelou read an original poem at President Bill Clinton's inauguration. He remembered the touching moment, calling the experience "electrifying" in a statement.

"With Maya Angelou's passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend," he said. "The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace."





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