Meet the Press   |  December 08, 2013

4: Maya Angelou recalls Mandela memories

NBC News correspondent Harry Smith sits down with author Maya Angelou to talk about her favorite memories of Nelson Mandela.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

would the man survive, could the man survive? his answers strengthen men and women around the world. those are the words from poet maya angelou in her poem called "his day is done" as she mourns the passing of nelson mandela . harry smith now, whose friendship with mandela snood the test of time and endurance.

>> courage is one of the most important of all the virtues. without courage you can't practice it consistently. but to be that time after time after time when you're in a prison cell 27 years, when you're being brutalized by everybody, it seems, and nobody seems to care, and to be constantly gracious enough to say, i forgive you. goodness gracious. harry smith , that's incredible.

>> what do you remember from when he was released from prison?

>> my joy was overwhelming. i watched him walk out, smiling. hmm. i was so proud. i was so proud to be an american , i was proud to be black, i was proud to be a woman, i was proud to be a human being . i am still proud. when i saw him walk out, that's who i am. that's who i can be.

>> we are going forward.

>> he not only survived, he thrived. just imagine. i just think of the person who could invite his captors and his guards at robben's island to his inauguration.

>> so help me god.

>> i weep now at it.

>> reporter: what's the lesson?

>> forgive. goodness gracious, you do yourself a favor when you forgive. drop that. whatever it is, it's happened already. forgive. maybe the person will learn something.

>> true liberation.

>> yes, sir. indeed, sir. indeed, was his spirit that delivered us. and that's what he's brought, is deliverance from ignorance.

>> reporter: when you heard, then, finally that he had passed, what was your thought?

>> i thought, will i be able to remember all that i've learned from him, from his kindness and his generosity of spirit. will i remember? and i thank god i do.

>> reporter: a week will pass, two weeks will pass, three weeks will pass, and a few more will be over and people will stop having this conversation.

>> well, i don't think anybody dies in vain. i don't think so. some of us learn. some of us don't. do you realize what would happen in south africa had there not been a nelson mandela ? it would be running in blood. not too long ago, they weren't allowed to lynch a man or a woman, so i don't think nelson mandela 's death was in vain. his life was not. i will never be the same. we thank him for coming. we thank him for teaching us. and we thank him for loving us all. all.

>> what a reflection. harry smith , your thoughts this morning.

>> a redemptive morning to be able to spend it with maya angelou , but how eye-opening it was to be black and living in south africa . steve beko ends up getting pulled over by the cops in south africa . he's dead 24 hours later. you rick yosk your life just breathing and being black in south africa , and to see this man come out and talk about a teachable moment.

>> thank you very much, harry smith . when we come back, we'll talk about other politics of the week. how did mandela's death overshadow president obama 's push for obama care this week? plus, have we finally turned a co