EDINBURG "The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom."

These poetic and soul-stirring words are from the much-celebrated autobiographical novel "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," a coming of age story penned by Dr. Maya Angelou in 1970 illustrating the importance of family and how strength of character and a love of literature helped her overcome racism and trauma.

Angelou, hailed as a global renaissance woman, is the first speaker Monday, Oct. 24 in the 2011-2012 Distinguished Speakers Series at The University of Texas-Pan American. Her presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium.

The Rio Grande Valley community is invited to hear Angelou, who is renown worldwide as a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist. Angelou has written more than 30 bestselling books and continues to make frequent appearances on television and in films. Her script for the movie "Georgia, Georgia," the first by an African-American woman ever to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Angelou has received a long list of recognitions for her accomplishments including three Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000.

Angelou has received more than 30 honorary degrees and is the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

In its eighth year, the Distinguished Speakers Series offers students and the University community the opportunity to hear and engage speakers of the highest caliber who will educate and inspire. The series is underwritten by student fees as recommended by the Student Affairs Advisory Committee. A Distinguished Speakers Committee composed of faculty, staff and students is charged with selecting persons to speak who represent a variety of world views and backgrounds. Past speakers have included former leader of Russia Mikhail Gorbachev, former TV news anchor Dan Rather, astrophysicist and PBS NOVA host Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, TV journalist Lisa Ling and former first lady of Egypt Dr. Jehan Sadat.

The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. Doors will open at 7 p.m. for UTPA students, faculty and staff with a valid UTPA ID and at 7:20 p.m. for the general public.

Those unable to attend can view the presentation live at www.utpa.edu/live.

The speaker series will continue on Feb. 29, 2012 with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times Thomas L. Friedman and will conclude April 3, 2012 with an evening featuring longtime, Emmy-winning TV host Larry King.

For more information or special accommodations, call 956-665-7989.