(Editor's note: This story first appeared in the Daily Herald on February 14, 1996)
Amid winter's short, dark days, it's pretty unlikely that rainbows are a hot topic of conversation.
But as renowned poet, author and performer Maya Angelou took the stage at Elmhurst College Sunday night, the colorful arches seemed to stretch over the crowd of more than 2,800.
"One finds that the rainbow is sometimes hidden behind the clouds. But you can be sure - if you live - that there will be clouds," Angelou said during the hour-long performance as the college's annual Martin Luther King Jr. guest speaker.
Inspiring people, enlightening events or lucky breaks are like rainbows, which sometimes hide behind the clouds after a hard rain. Angelou said the key to survival is merely mustering the faith to believe they are there.
"It is an amazing thing to have a rainbow in your clouds. It is imperative for you to survive for you to have some grace and some humor," she told the sold-out crowd of students, faculty and area residents.
Like a sermon inspired by a Psalm, Angelou punctuated her tales by singing a chorus: "When it looked like the sun wasn't ashine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds."
Too often, people look in the wrong place for that symbol of a shining example. She encouraged young people to turn away from MTV, television stars and musicians.
"Look in your family first - then go to your neighborhood, your church, the people in the park....Find someone who really cares if you live and would be heartbroken if you die."
The spirit of these "heroes and sheroes" should be carried into each frightening situation.
"I take everybody with me each time I enter - I take all the people who have enriched me, who dared to love me....That's not charisma, there's about 5,000 people up here."
Angelou's autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was nominated for the National Book Award. She presented the inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton and portrayed the grandmother in the television miniseries, "Roots."