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Poet Maya Angelou Falls Ill

September 15, 2000

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Poet Maya Angelou went to a hospital emergency room Friday morning, hours after she left an appearance at the University of Nebraska in a wheelchair.

The 72-year-old Angelou was not admitted to BryanLGH Medical Center West, an employee said. She did cancel an appearance Friday in Omaha.

Angelou left the university’s Lied Center for Performing Arts in a wheelchair Thursday night after speaking to 2,400 people.

``She was extremely exhausted and needed the wheelchair to get around,″ said Karen Wills, an organizer of Angelou’s appearance. She said Angelou had left Friday afternoon by airplane.

Angelou suffered a case of pneumonia last year.

During her speech Thursday, Angelou told students that they are not in college to get a degree, marry and buy a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage. Instead, she said, they are learning to compose ``this world you find yourself in.″

Angelou, author of the 1970 autobiographical ``I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,″ advised people to look to poetry for inspiration.

``It is imperative that you have it to tenderize your life,″ he said.

A portion of Angelou’s speech touched on racial issues. She told the mostly white audience that blacks arrived on the American continent in 1619, one year before the Mayflower arrived.

``And still the last hired and the first fired. ... The question is how have they composed lives which were friendly to them,″ Angelou said.

Not all was serious, though. After reciting a poem, she let out a big ``Woo!″ and laugh.

``I never trust people who don’t laugh,″ she said. ``There’s an African saying: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.″

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