Maya Angelou's Enduring Optimism

Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou (Poetry For Young People) (Hardcover) by Edwin Graves Wilson (Editor), Jerome Lagarrigue (Illustrator)
Sterling Publishing
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
I first interviewed Maya Angelou about 25 years ago. From the moment we met, I was a goner. She says "good morning" with a voice that could warm the coldest heart.

She is still everything you hope she is, and then some. Wise, smart, funny…challenging you to keep up with her at almost 80!

I interviewed her today because for the first time, the "Poetry for Young People" series of books has chosen a living writer - Maya Angelou. Most of the poets they have picked in the past were white… male… European.

She laughed when she said, "I am none of the above!"

I reminded her of the clear bright day in Washington, D.C. when her poem written for Bill Clinton's inauguration hushed the crowds along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Are those days of optimism gone, I wondered, while nooses are appearing in school yards? Dr. Angelou said we should remember the times when those nooses had men in them, and it rarely caused a stir.

Better now, she said, that even empty nooses make front-page headlines.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.