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'Let it shine'

Beloved poet uses pulpit to call on people to change the world

The Daily Cougar 


Gregory Bohuslav/The Daily Cougar

The concrete walls of the Cullen Performance Hall were not enough to hold in the thunderous applause Maya Angelou's speech garnered on Wednesday.

Angelou, best-selling author and poet, brought a message of inspiration to UH and reminded the audience the power of their "light" to change is within everyone.

"It's impossible to know what your light will do," said Angelou. "You are here so that you can develop your light. You have a chance at this time to prepare yourself so you can shine on someone who is yet to come."


Poet Maya Angelou wants for people to recognize the power they possess to change the world. Angelou filled to capacity the Cullen Performance Hall on Wednesday evening.

Letting one's light shine as a way to inspire change was a familiar theme throughout Angelou's speech as she frequently sang "this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine," from the popular antebellum slave song.

Angelou urged students to visit the library and become familiar with African-American poetry, saying, "When the largest society, with more power and more might, has a way of letting you know that you are not enough, you need something to tell you you're not only enough, you're just right, and you're my kind of right."

The poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Mari Evans, said Angelou, can help give that reassurance.

Angelou also offered advice for those who feel mistreated, saying, "Young men and women, learn nothing but this: If you feel you are being misused, say so then. Say, ‘I'm not the one to be brutalized. I'm not the one to be abused.' Say, ‘No, not me. I'm not the one.'" 

Angelou recited several poems throughout the night, including one of her own, titled Phenomenal Woman, which delivers the message to women that they all are equally beautiful, no matter their size or shape.

"It was loving and you can feel the passion behind her words," hotel restaurant management senior Alvin Shaw, said of Angelou's speech. He said the most important thing to take away from the experience is to "be more loving and respecting toward others."

Angelou encouraged the audience to develop courage, saying, "It is the most important of all the virtues. Without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."

Angelou also stressed the importance of equality, asking the audience to try not using racial pejoratives for a week. 

Business finance Sophomore Jerrica Lewis called the speech "inspiring and enlightening," and found the most important message to be "Respect yourself and love yourself before you love anyone else."

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Good News Gospel Choir, University of Houston co. 2006