First aired on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (31/12/13)
Maya Angelou is one of the world's most accomplished and celebrated writers. Over the course of a career that spans more than 50 years, she's dabbled in pretty much everything: producing, acting, educating and more, and she has been honoured with numerous awards including a National Medal of Arts from the U.S. Congress in 2000 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Her accomplishments are as remarkable as they are diverse, but Angelou doesn't see it that way. "Young people, of any race, who are reasonably bright and find themselves with no open doors, they will do many things," she told George Stroumboulopoulos in a recent interview. She says she's come across this open door many times, and hasn't been afraid to step through it, because she believed in herself and what she was capable of.
More from CBC Books
Not everyone was impressed with Angelou's ambition, but she's quick to dismiss those who weren't supporting or encouraging her. "There are those who will not be forgiving and so they blame the person for trying to make a better world for herself or himself."
Alternatively, Angelou looked to her supporters for strength. "So many times I've had rainbows in my clouds," said Angelou. "People who've been kind to me, who said, 'You don't have to do that. I believe you can do better.' Some were black, some were white, some were Spanish speaking, some were Native American, some were gay and some were straight, fat and thin and pretty and plain. People lifted me up and said 'I believe in you. You can do better.'"
Angelou believes in paying this forward. "And so I realize that was given to me and all I have as a response is to prepare myself so I can give that to somebody else who is yet to come."