What an inspirations. Ms. Angelou's spirit, wit, and elegance held the crowd captive.
She spoke of honoring those who have provided all of us with the opportunities we now have. She talked about rainbows in the cloud and how we all had them in their past and it was just as important that we find way to be someone else's rainbows. She sang, she laughed, she cracked jokes as she told bits of her history. And all of it was wrapped inside a great personality and told with a smile that truly did light up the entire arena.
Then toward the end she spoke directly to me. Or so it seemed. Like a sinner sitting in the first row of pews I couldn't help but feel Ms. Angelou was addressing me when she started talking about humor and laughter.
First she said, "Never trust anyone who doesn't laugh."
I couldn't agree more.
Then she went on to add. "You see those people with the back of their hands pressed to their foreheads. They go around saying. 'I'm not laughing, because I'm serious.' " For that last part she adapted a falsetto to her voice to imitate those kind of people's speech pattern.
Then, in her own voice Maya, said, "I don't know how serious any of them are but they sure are boring as hell." The place erupted in laughter.
Then she gave us a bit of history on one of her more lighthearted poems. She prefaced it by saying. "I am not nor have I ever been a vegetarian." And suddenly I liked her all the more.
Then she shared a story about a visit some twenty odd years ago to a health diner where the waitress ridicule her for simply reaching for a package of cigarettes. I found that poem in the internet and I'm going to share it here.
The Health-Food Diner
No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).
Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).
Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).
No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run
Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).
Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.
-- Maya Angelou
I don't smoke, but I understand exactly how she feels and that is Maya's true gift, capturing the human spirit. Whether it be a poem, an oral story or classic prose on a page she speaks not to the brain but to the heart and soul of those fortunate enough to be her audience.
An interesting tidbit. The very same West Texas A&M university is soon hosting Karl Rove as their commencement speaker. I can't imagine any tow individuals having more dissimilar life philosophy's than Ms. Angelou and Mr. Rove so I'll give the university kudos for their diversified approach.