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Maya Angelou inspires students during One Mizzou Week

Angelou is One Mizzou Week’s first keynote speaker.

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Maya Angelou kicked off One Mizzou Week with her free show Monday night at the Missouri Theatre. She spoke about topics ranging from her background to the importance of college students in the very near future.

Kein Bartlett/Senior Staff Photographer

Nov. 13, 2012

Monday night in the Missouri Theatre, a full house welcomed American author and poet Maya Angelou with a standing ovation.

Angelou came as a guest speaker for MU’s first annual One Mizzou Week.

“We can say we began One Mizzou Week with a living legend," One Mizzou committee member Ahad Hosseini said.

Xavier Billingsley, Missouri Students Association president and One Mizzou committee trustee member, spoke before Angelou came on stage.

“This is the first One Mizzou lectureship and the first One Mizzou Week," Billingsley said.

The curtains parted, and Angelou sat in a chair at center stage. She opened with a song.

“When it looked like the sun ain’t shining anymore, God put a rainbow in the sky,” Angelou sang.

This 19th-century folk song encompassed Angelou’s theme of the night. She kept coming back to the song by speaking of all of her rainbows in the clouds.

“Rainbows are put in with the clouds at the worst of times — there’s a possibility of hope,” Angelou said. “I came here to say something, and I’m not leaving until I say it.”

Angelou acknowledged Veterans Day, saying all of the veterans serving for us and those who have served for us are our “rainbows in the clouds.”

Angelou spoke of her Uncle Willie, her brother and poetry as rainbows in her clouds. She recounted memories of her family and acknowledged where she is in her life now.

“This is my 84th year on the planet, and I’m still kickin’ it,” she said.

Angelou kept the crowd laughing all night.

“I love it when you laugh,” Angelou said. “I don’t trust people that don’t laugh.”

In addition to giving anecdotes and humor, Angelou also gave some advice to her audience.

“You have to have a passion for this thing called life,” she said.

With her words, she was able to address a predominantly college-age crowd.

“If you’re young, black, white, healthy with some education and getting more, look, look at what you can do with your lives,” Angelou said.

We are here for our world, but our world depends on us, Angelou said.

“We need you desperately,” she said. “Not enough adults tell you that.”

Angelou told the crowd about experiences and journeys she's had throughout her life and how she thinks of herself.

“I used to think of myself as a writer who can teach, but I am a teacher who can write,” she said.

Angelou ended the night with a poem the United Nations asked her to write. She said as a young, pregnant black woman with no education and no husband, she would look at the U.N. and the women who worked there in admiration. When this opportunity arose, Angelou said she couldn’t turn it down.

“I want you to have this poem and read it, and when you have children, read it to your children,” she said.

Students, faculty and staff lingered long after the curtains drew, and all had different reasons for coming to hear Angelou speak and showing their support for One Mizzou Week.

Graduate student Brad Ekwerekwu said he came for his night’s imminent success.

"Because Maya Angelou is one of the pioneers of equality and harmony ... An event like this, centered in a community like this, is only successful ... It can't lose. I came here to represent my family, my community and myself," Ekwerekwu said.

Freshman Kandice Head said she came to see someone whom she has admired for a long time.

“Maya Angelou is my hero, my absolute hero," Head said. "I've always dreamt of the day I could meet her.”

Sophomore Alex Ralph said he came to hear Maya Angelou speak but took away even more than he anticipated.

“I really enjoyed this," Ralph said. "It inspired me to go out and change the world and be a rainbow in somebody’s clouds.”

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Article comments

Nov. 13, 2012 at 3:55 p.m.

John Driscoll: Great story, thank you for sharing it. I wish I could have been there, but the best thing was you making me feel like I was.

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