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Dr. Maya Angelou On The Power Of Words (VIDEO)

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Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away on May 28, had an undeniable way with words. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet and author is the source of countless quotes -- "When people show you who they are, believe them," for example -- and eloquent life lessons, many of which she shared in her conversations with Oprah throughout the years.

In her last appearance on "Oprah's Master Class," Dr. Angelou beautifully articulated her perspective on words and the great power they contain.

"Words are things, I'm convinced," she said. "You must be careful about the words you use or the words you allow to be used in your house."

The idea of words being things, Dr. Angelou says, comes from the Bible. "In the Old Testament, we are told in Genesis that in the beginning was the word. And the word was God, and the word was with God," she explained. "That's in Genesis. Words are things."

This is why Dr. Angelou stressed the importance of being mindful when you speak. "You must be careful. Care about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance," she said. "Don't do that."

Words, she felt, have to power to seep into everything around you. "I think they get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs and your upholstery and your clothes," Dr. Angelou said. "And, finally, into you."

Years before that interview, Dr. Angelou was particularly moved by the words in a song by Lee Ann Womack. Oprah remembers Dr. Angelou calling her and saying, "If I had a daughter -- and I feel that you are my daughter -- those are the words I would want to say to my daughter." The next day, Oprah received Womack's CD I Hope You Dance in the mail. Not long after that, Oprah invited Womack to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to perform the title track.

Watch below as Womack performs "I Hope You Dance" on "The Oprah Show" in 2002.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Maya Angelou won a Pulitzer Prize. She was nominated in 1972 for "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie."

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Around the Web

Maya Angelou - The Official Website

Maya Angelou - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maya Angelou Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story - Biography.com

Maya Angelou | Facebook

Maya Angelou Biography -- Academy of Achievement

Maya Angelou (Author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

Filed by Lisa Capretto