Obama: Angelou's best stories were true

President Obama hailed poet Maya Angelou as "one of the brightest lights of our time" and a "brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman" in a statement Wednesday marking her death.

"Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya," Obama said. "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."

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Angelou died in her North Carolina home at the age of 86, according to Wake Forest University, where she worked as a professor.

Obama said that, despite her work as an author, civil rights activist, director and composer, Angelou would ultimately be remembered as a storyteller and that "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," Obama said.

He added that she had inspired his mother to name his sister Maya in her honor.

"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," he said.

Obama presented Angelou with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2011.