It takes a phenomenal amount of courage to be a woman today. For around this world, your world, my world, there are conflicts, brutalities, humiliations, terrors, murders. You can take any Rand McNally map and close your eyes and just point, and you will find there are injustices, but in your country, particularly in your country, young women, you have, as the old folks say, your work cut out for you. For fascism is on the rise, and be assured of it, sexism, racism, ageism, every vulgarity against the human spirit is on the rise. And this is what you have inherited.
However, on the other hand, what you have first is your courage. You may lean against it, it will hold you up, you have that. And the joy of achievement, the ecstasy of achievement. It enlightens and lightens at the same time. It is a marvelous thing. Today, your joy begins, today your work begins. You are phenomenal. I believe that women are phenomenal. I know us to be.
There is a poem called “Phenomenal Woman.” I wrote the poem for black women and white women and Asian and Hispanic women, Native American women. I wrote it for fat women, women who may have posed for the before pictures in Weight Watchers. I wrote it for anorexics. I wrote it for all of us, for women in kibbutzim, and burgher women, women on the pages and front covers of Vogue and Essence, and Ebony magazine. For we are phenomenal.
Maya Angelou, 1982 Wellesley College Commencement Address