Maya Angelou would have turned 88 today, and while she is no longer with us, her words live on. The author and civil rights activist is best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first non-fiction bestseller by an African-American woman.
The poet, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 86, inspired so many with her gorgeous words. From her 1994 Grammy win to her 2010 acceptance of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Angelou was a beloved American icon.
In honor of her special day, here are 11 inspirational quotes from the award-winning, barrier-breaking author.
1. On doing what you love: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
2. On generosity: "I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
3. On empathy: “Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike."
4. On life’s greatest pleasures: “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
5. On love: "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
6. On courage: "Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else."
7. On change: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
8. On giving back: "When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”
9. On life’s greatest goal: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."
10. On first impressions: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
11. On feeling: “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.”