Like many people, I watched the Golden Globe Awards last Sunday night, and was blown away by Oprah Winfrey’s speech as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement. It was inspiring, empowering, and it made me feel as though, yes, a new day is dawning, and the world is about to change for the better.
At no point did it occur to me, however, that this was a political speech, or the launch of a political career for Oprah. That changed the next morning, when every headline and news report included the phrase “Oprah 2020.” Virtually everyone was speculating whether Oprah was considering a run for the presidency in the next election.
I’ve been a fan of Oprah’s ever since she first started her talk show in Chicago back in the mid-’80s. I had just given birth to my first child, and as a brand-new stay-at-home mom, I started spending an hour a day with this woman who became a regular guest in millions of people’s living rooms every day. I was even a part of her studio audience once, when she was doing a show about post-partum depression, and her audience consisted of guests who had recently given birth.
I have to say that I find the idea of Oprah as a presidential candidate intriguing, for reasons that go well beyond the scope of politics. I’m not going to discuss Oprah in terms of politics at all, in fact, but in terms of another word that ironically starts with the same five letters: politeness.
Courtesy, civility, and common decency have been getting more and more scarce in our society, and the problem seems worse now than ever before. Meryl Streep commented on this at the Golden Globes last year, when she was the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. With reference to a specific incident, she said that “this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.”
Sadly, we’ve seen much evidence of that in the past year. Which is a pretty good argument in favor of Oprah. Passionate, positive, powerful, popular, and polite are all words that describe her well. So are words like caring, compassionate, courteous, and civil. Not to mention hard-working, intelligent, innovative, and generous. I think she would be a great leader, even taking nothing else into consideration but the example she sets and the excellence she inspires.
I have no idea whether Oprah is really considering running in the next presidential election. But I know that I’d definitely like to see more of her, and all that she represents – as well as the values she embodies – in the future. In the news, on the air, and – okay, I’m going to get political now – in Washington in 2020.
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January 12, 2018
©Betty Liedtke, 2018