At the funeral service for Coretta Scott King on February 7, 2006, Dr. Maya Angelou made one of the most beautiful speeches I've ever heard. Subject? Hope and change. Read on to hear some of it in her own words:
(Singing) "I open my mouth to the Lord and I won't turn back, no. I will go. I shall go. I'll see what the end is gonna be."
"In the midst of national tumult, in the medium of international violent uproar, Coretta Scott King's face remained a study in serenity. In times of interior violent storms she sat, her hands resting in her lap calmly, like good children sleeping.
Her passion was never spent in public display. She offered her industry and her energies to action, toward righting ancient and current wrongs in this world."
"I speak as a -- a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or lfower to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world."
"We called ourselves "chosen sisters" and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other "girl." It's a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 7th decade, we still said 'girl.'"
"I stand here tonight for her family -- which is my family -- and for my family and all the other families in the world who would want to be here, but could not be here. I have beside me up here millions of people who are living and standing straight and erect, and knowing something about dignity without being cold and aloof, knowing something about contained with being unapproachable -- people who have learned something from Coretta Scott King."
"Many times on those late afternoons and evenings she would say to me, "Sister, it shouldn't be an 'either-or,' should it? Peace and justice should belong to all people, everywhere, all the time. Isn't that right? And I said then and I say now, "Coretta Scott King, you're absolutely right. I do believe that peace and justice should belong to every person, everywhere, all the time."
"And those of us who gather here, principalities, presidents, senators, those of us who run great companies, who know something about being parents, who know something about being preachers and teachers -- those of us, we owe something from this minute on; so that this gathering is not just another footnote on the pages of history. We owe something."
"I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.
I mean to say I want to see a better world.
I mean to say I want to see some peace somewhere.
I mean to say I want to see some honesty, some fair play.
I want to see kindness and justice.
This is what I want to see and I want to see it through my eyes and your eyes, Coretta Scott King."
(Sings:) "I open my mouth to the Lord and I won't turn back, no. I will go. I shall go. I'll see what the end is gonna be."
The night of Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC last week fell on an anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, but it also fell on Maya Angelou's birthday.