What Maya Angelou’s Reading at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration in 1993 Meant to Her

The celebrated poet died Wednesday at the age of 86.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
May 28, 2014, 6:38 a.m.

On a sunny, Janu­ary day in 1993, Maya An­gelou stepped up to the po­di­um of the West Front of the Cap­it­ol, dir­ectly after Bill Clin­ton had been sworn in and de­livered his first ad­dress as the pres­id­ent of the United States.

She read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morn­ing,” and in it she honored the oc­ca­sion and en­cap­su­lated the en­tirety of Amer­ica’s his­tory — from the time of the di­no­saurs to the struggles of Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans and Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans. The mes­sage of her poem was that the United States was a place where all these dis­par­ate ele­ments of his­tory can come to­geth­er.