President Barack Obama kisses Maya Angelou after giving her the 2010 Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House Feb. 15, 2011.
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President Barack Obama voiced his love and appreciation for author, poet and activist Maya Angelou in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, remembering her as a "truly phenomenal woman."

"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," he said in the statement. "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," Obama added. "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."

Obama awarded Angelou the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Angelou, 86, passed away in her home in North Carolina after battling with illness for some time.