Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Tavis Smiley

Tavis! He has one of those names that stand alone. Think Oprah, Tiger, Elvis and, yes, Barack. You know if you hear Tavis, you are talking about Mr. Smiley.

Tavis, 44, and I sit next to each other in the late-night-television galaxy, on the same network, one of us starting and the other finishing the night. We do it differently, but we seek the same goal: great stories and great storytellers. It doesn't matter if they come from science or sports, entertainment or education, poetry or politics. It's about what they have learned, what they value and what they teach us about being human.

Tavis has to go no further than his life to find a good story. It is a story of rising out of poverty with a purpose, of hearing the music of a dream, his hopes to be not just a broadcaster or a businessman but also a leader, a builder.

He has created an empire of his own with the Smiley Group. Tavis doesn't just write books; he publishes books. He doesn't just have an office; he owns an office building. But he wants more than the rewards of financial success, although he has pursued it with uncommon skills. He reaches for leadership. He has a passion to educate about the black experience, black history, black responsibility, black achievement and black people.

Tavis rejects arguments that we are in a postracial era, because he looks at race and sees an unfinished agenda. And in fact, he has taken on the responsibility of holding President Obama accountable on race. In the end, it is not just about Tavis, not just about African Americans, not just about President Obama. It is about an unfinished American agenda that serves us all to complete and to make us one people.

Rose is editor and anchor of Charlie Rose