President Obama issued a statement praising Harper Lee, who died at the age of 89 Thursday, in which he said the reclusive author “changed America for the better.”
The statement began with a quote from “To Kill A Mockingbird,” her classic novel about racial injustice in the South. (“To Kill A Mockingbird” was also her only published novel until the controversial release of “Go Set a Watchman” last year.)
Obama said that, through the book, Lee was able “to change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves.”
“Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country,” Obama said.
Lee died peacefully, her publisher HarperCollins said in a statement Friday.
Read the full Obama statement below:
“Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
When Harper Lee sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn’t seeking awards or fame. She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story about life as she saw it.
But what that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.
Ms. Lee changed America for the better. And there is no higher tribute we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story – to our students, to our neighbors, and to our children – and to constantly try, in our own lives, to finally see each other.