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    Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton Pay Tribute to Late Poet and Activist Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou, Oprah George Burns/Harpo Productions, Inc.

    Maya Angelou may be gone, but her legacy lives on.

    The award-winning author died Wednesday at age 86. Many of Angelou's famous fans shared their condolences and memories of the activist and author via Twitter. Three of her most powerful pals, however, released lengthier statements to pay tribute to her personal and professional achievements.

    "I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my twenties," Oprah Winfrey tells E! News in a statement. "She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. 'When you learn, teach. When you get, give,' is one of my best lessons from her."

    Winfrey points out that Angelou was an accomplished woman who spoke six languages, wrote numerous thought-provoking books and won three Grammys. "But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it's how she lived her life," Winfrey says. "She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds."

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    Dr. Maya Angelou, U.S. President Barack Obama Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After hearing of the poet's passing, the politician said, "When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that 'No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.'"

    "Today, [Michelle Obama] 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. "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," he added. "In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya."

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    The commander-in-chief continued to praise the iconic American citizen, saying, "Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer. And 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."

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    Dr. Maya Angelou, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

    Former President Bill Clinton also released a statement to E! News expressing his sadness over Angelou's death. When he was inaugurated for the first time in 1993, he asked her to write a poem. "On the Pulse of Morning" became a million-seller, and the spoken word version earned a Grammy.

    Angelou was the second person to ever read a poem at a presidential inauguration. She broke another barrier that day, too, becoming the first African-American and the first woman to recite at the event.

    "America has lost a national treasure; and [Hillary Clinton] and I, a beloved friend," Clinton said Wednesday. "The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of 'On the Pulse of Morning' at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed."

    "Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river 'and the tree and the stone were one,'" he added. "Our deepest sympathies are with [her son Guy B. Johnson] and his family."

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