Few can captivate a crowd of eighth graders with a speech. Or have the gift to talk and somehow make each word ring with meaning. In middle school I met a woman who did this effortlessly. I was attending a lecture at the University of Virginia, and I hardly understood the awesomeness of this guest speaker. Honestly, in eighth grade anything that will get you out of class and homework will do and is happily welcomed. So, I couldn’t wait to plop my bottom down in one of those uncomfortable wooden lecture chairs and listen to crickets if that was the presentation.
As soon as this woman opened her mouth to speak, the audience went silent. I can’t remember all the topics she touched on but I remember the way I felt as she shared them: inspired, moved, curious, (like she was telling bits of a secret).
Afterward I went up to her to introduce myself. She was calm not frazzled like you’d think someone would be with a crowd of kids coming at them. She had a gentle confidence that was easy and approachable.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou
She made me feel important and proud. Which is a big deal for an insecure twelve-year-old girl. 🙂
And after that day, I made sure to follow-up on her work. Listen to her interviews. Quote her wisdom. She became an influential person in my life without even knowing it. As a writer I think we all hope for that kind of impact on people. Today, it’s important to celebrate her life, all that she accomplished. I’m grateful to have met one of the world’s finest human beings.
And Dr. Angelou you’re right. I’ll never forget the way you made me feel. You will be missed. Her words will live on in all the hearts she touched. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from her:
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