Thinking of the loss of Maya Angelou today. I had the privilege of meeting her ten years ago when I worked for the Democratic National Convention. It is not often in this life I have the confidence or boldness to push my way forward and speak up but I travelled the long hallways of the convention center to find her and ask her assistant if I could shake her hand. I remember her assistant was fiercely protective, reluctant, annoyed. She asked me what I might say, reminded me to call her Dr., not Miss, or Ms., or Mrs., but Dr. Angelou, warned I could not speak to her for very long.
The feeling of actually meeting her was much different than my encounter with her handler. The woman who stood before me had a mild, calm, yet almost regal presence. I told her that I admired her work very much and asked to shake her hand. I remember that she waited for me to say more. Not knowing what else to say, I only smiled. She did not shake my hand but, instead, enveloped both of her hands around mine and held them there.
The moment was brief and quiet. Yet profound. I will remember, as she so famously quoted, how it felt to be around someone whose manner was so gentle, elegant, and assured.