Opinion: Maya Angelou holds forth -- eloquently and poetically -- on Barack Obama’s win

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In an inspired booking move, guests on CBS’ ‘The Early Show’ this morning included Maya Angelou, the famed autobiographer (‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’), poet and civil rights activist.

For a brief but interesting video review of American civil rights history in politics and popular culture, plus the actual Angelou interview, click on the Read more line below.


Reflecting on Barack Obama’s victorious presidential campaign, Angelou had this to tell host Harry Smith:

I’m so proud and filled, I can hardly talk without weeping. I’m so filled with pride for my country. What do you say? We are growing up. My God, I’m so grateful.... I mean, look at our souls, look at our hearts. We have elected a black man to talk for us, to speak for us. We, blacks, whites, Asians, Spanish-speaking, Native Americans, we have done it. Fat, thin, pretty, plain, gay, straight, we have done it. My Lord, I am an American, baby.

Asked Smith: ‘Why this man?’

She replied:

Because he’s intelligent, Harry. I don’t mean intellectually clever. I mean intelligent. I mean what used to be called a mother wit. He has common sense, which is, I’m sorry to say, most uncommon. Because he knows that together....

...we can be somebody. You see?

And he is inclusive as opposed to exclusive. I know that he knows he is the president of every black person, every white person, he’s the president of the bigots and he must remember that.

Ultimately, this exchange occurred, which speaks for itself:

SMITH: Of your many great poems, the poem that I have been thinking about, since I knew that I was going to talk to you today was ‘I Rise.’ Could you, would you give us some of it this morning? ANGELOU: It begins, ‘You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I’ll rise. Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise up from a past rooted in pain I rise. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise into daybreak miraculously clear I rise. Bringing the hopes that my ancestors gave, I am the hope and the dream of the slave.’ And so, Harry Smith, we all rise. SMITH: And I rise. ANGELOU: Yes, we do. SMITH: I rise. ANGELOU: Yes, we do. SMITH: And I rise. Dr. Maya Angelou, thank you very much for being with us this morning. ANGELOU: Mr. Harry Smith, thank you very much for having me.

And we thank the CBS publicity department for giving us the heads up on a televised moment we are sorry we missed -- it was a long night -- but are glad to pass it along.


-- Don Frederick

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