President Obama awarded Maya Angelou the Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony yesterday. His short speech about the poet praised her poems for their inspirational quality (which also, apparently, inspired his mother to name his sister Maya). Here's an excerpt:

Dr. Maya Angelou. Out of a youth marked by pain and injustice, Dr. Maya Angelou rose with an unbending determination to fight for civil rights and inspire every one of us to recognize and embrace the possibility and potential we each hold.

With her soaring poetry, towering prose and mastery of a range of art forms, Dr. Angelou has spoken to the conscience of our nation. Her soul-stirring words have taught us how to reach across division and honor the beauty of our world.

Originally Published: February 16th, 2011