WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the death of poet and author Maya Angelou has dimmed "one of the brightest lights of our time."
Obama said in a statement that he and first lady Michelle Obama will cherish the time they spent with Angelou.
He said Angelou had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children and that we all have something to offer.
"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," Obama said.
"Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things: an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller, and her greatest stories were true.
Obama said "a childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking, but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves."
He presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2011, and said the poet had inspired his mother to name his sister Maya.
Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.
Former President Bill Clinton said her death meant that "America has lost a national treasure, and Hillary and I, a beloved friend."
"The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace," Clinton said.
Clinton said he will remain forever grateful for Angelou's "electrifying reading" of "On the Pulse of Morning" at his first inauguration in 1993, and for the years of friendship that followed.