President Obama praised the late Maya Angelou on Wednesday, calling her "one of the brightest lights of our time --a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman."
In a written statement, Obama quoted a line that Angelou herself said after last year's death of Nelson Mandela: "No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn."
Angelou, who received a Medal of Freedom from Obama in 2011, died Wednesday at the age of 86.
Former President Bill Clinton, who invited Angelou to recite a poem at his inauguration in 1993, issued a statement saying that "America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend."
Echoing an Angelou poem, Clinton said: "Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river 'and the tree and the stone were one.'"
In his statement, Obama said that while Angelou was many things -- "an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer" -- she was above a all a storyteller whose greatest works 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," Obama said.
He added: "In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya."
On another personal note, Obama said:
"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."