Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou
Oprah: Why do they want it banned—because of the rape?
Maya: Because of the rape. And yet I just read someplace that after a woman had read Caged Bird, she realized she wasn't alone. I think in some cases Caged Bird has saved some lives—not just the quality of life, which is very important, but life itself. I get letters from young women and men, and I am able to say to them, "You can survive rape. You never forget it—don't even think that. But you can survive it and go on."
Oprah: You've shown that you can live on—and with grace. That's the other quality that you and I appreciate in people: the ability to live with, and accept, grace. Because grace seems to always be available.
Maya: It's like a lake of drinkable water right outside your door. But you stay inside and die of thirst.
Oprah: My favorite Maya teaching is, "When people show you who they are, believe them."
Maya: Yes—and believe them the first time!
Oprah: You've told me a lot of things, but that's the one principle that really resonates. If you can just get that, you can do okay.
Maya: You can save yourself a lot of anger. And I will tell you another principle: Being thankful helps you to be present.
Oprah: And humble.
Maya: Yes. People commit errors because they are not present. A few weeks ago, I was down in Atlanta, and my great—granddaughter was running around. I was cutting some onions, and I cut off the end of my thumb! I wasn't present. I was over there, with my great—granddaughter. You see? I'm a cook—I know what knife and flesh do together. But I wasn't present. I would encourage women and men to be present—you'll avoid falling into certain pits. For instance, if you know that a person has just lost his wife or her husband or lover, it's unlikely that you will say something that will hurt that person's feelings [if you're truly paying attention]. You'll make a sweeter life for yourself and for those around you if you are present.
Oprah: In the moment.
Maya: Yes, ma'am. Very important.
Oprah: Part of the reason I'm doing this interview is that you have been one of the greatest gifts and the biggest influence in my life.
Maya: I'm so for grateful that.
Oprah: I remember one time you were overseas, eight hours ahead of us here, and you were in the middle of a speech onstage. I was like, "Get the phone to Maya now!"
Maya: That's true.