Bill Clinton has commented on the legacy of poet, author and activist Maya Angelou, who passed away today.

“With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend,” said Clinton. "The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace.

“I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed. Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river “and the tree and the stone were one.”

“Our deepest sympathies are with Guy and his family.”

President Obama also released a statement:

“When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”

“Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

“Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."

Michelle Obama added:

“Maya Angelou teaches us that it’s not enough merely to seek greatness for ourselves. We must help others discover the greatness within themselves. We need to reach down and reach out, and give back, and lift others the way Maya has lifted us.

“That is how we can most truly honor our friend Maya Angelou – by how we live our lives … by striving every day to embody the wisdom, and generosity, and radiant love with which she has graced our world.”

Perhaps best known for her memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. In 1993, she became the first poet to recite a poem at a Presidential Inauguration since Robert Frost in 1961.

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