The fifth annual BET Honors awards program featured many stars and celebrated the accomplishments of poet/author Maya Angelou, musician Stevie Wonder, songstress Mariah Carey, filmmaker Spike Lee, the Tuskegee Airmen, and inspirational coach and mentor Beverly Kearney(education). But the person who generated the greatest enthusiasm, energy and perhaps the longest standing ovation was First Lady Michelle Obama.
Obama was introduced by actress Cicely Tyson, who noted the first lady's many roles and achievements, including being a brilliant attorney, extraordinary mother, champion of military families and the helpmate of the world's most powerful man.
"As African-American women we get special bragging rights because she's the first one of us to serve [as first lady]," Tyson said. "In her many roles she has set a new standard that is extremely high for anyone who follows in her footsteps."
Obama presented an award for literary achievement to Angelou, whom she recalled, first impressed her as an "iconic almost otherworldly figure" whose stories and "ability to tell difficult truths" left her spellbound.
"I would listen to her speak and be awed by her intellect, her insight and her clarity. That is the Maya Angelou I first came to know. Maya the writer and historian, Maya the activist and actress, Maya who enchants and enlightens and challenges us with the power of her words," Obama said.
In the past few years, the two have become friends and Obama now considers her a mentor "who calms your nerves and warms your soul." The first lady said that Angelou's "magic" lies in "how she combines that otherworldliness with a spirit that is so firmly and fully human."
And while she was thrilled to present the BET Honor to Angelou, Obama said that the best way to honor the icon is to emulate her.
'she lifts us out of our everyday lives, making us feel like we can do anything and go anywhere and be our boldest, realest, most brilliant and fabulous selves. And at the same time she grounds us, wrapping us in her embrace, reminding us that we belong here, that each of us has a place in this world," Obama said.
"Maya Angelou teaches us that it's not enough merely to seek greatness for ourselves. We must help others discover the greatness within ourselves," the first lady added. "We need to reach down and reach and out and give back and lift up others the way Maya has lifted us. That is how we can most truly honor [her]."
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(Photo: Brad Barket/PictureGroup)
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