Editorials

Our View – Oprah Winfrey’s career appreciated

Oh, Oprah. She is literally the walking, talking American dream. Watch her as she steps on stage, her hair and makeup immaculate, sporting that luxurious cashmere sweater and hand-beaded skirt. Her $400 stiletto heels click as she slowly makes her way on stage. The audience explodes in fits of giggles and screams. Some women burst into tears at the mere sight of her. Some are shaking. Others are jumping up and down to get a good look at Oprah, their idol. Millions of viewers tune in at home, eager to hear what their favorite billionaire powerhouse has to say this week.

And it’s not just the show. Oprah of course has her mega popular magazine O and now boosts an XM satellite radio show “Oprah and Friends,” which premiered today, another addition to her media empire.

Is this really the same poor black girl from Mississippi? Yes, it certainly is. Winfrey was an ambitious child at a young age. While attending Tennessee State University, Winfrey worked at a local radio station, and that is where her career in media began. Oprah was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV.

She worked on other talk shows, which were all unsuccessful until 1983, when she relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Within months after Winfrey took over, the show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking Phil Donahue as the highest-rated talk show in Chicago. It was later renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and was expanded to a full hour. The first national broadcast was on Sept. 8, 1986. The rest is history.

For the past 20 years, Winfrey has been rocking the syndicated talk show slot.

According to Forbes magazine, she is the richest African-American of the 20th century and the world’s only black billionaire for three straight years. Life magazine ranked Oprah as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, BusinessWeek ranked her as the greatest black philanthropist in American history. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said it best: “She is the top alpha female in this country. She has more credibility than the president. Other successful women, such as Hillary Clinton and Martha Stewart, had to be publicly slapped down before they could move forward. Even Condi has had to play the protégé with Bush. None of this happened to Oprah – she is a straight ahead success story.”

Winfrey created a completely new form of media communication, known as “rapport talk.” This means that she confesses intimate details about her own life to millions of viewers, speaking candidly on issues such as weight problems, her love life and the sexual abuse she endured as a child. Oprah even cries alongside her guests, instantly becoming everyone’s best friend.

Recently, Oprah encountered a man who created a Web site dedicated to her possible run for presidency. He even created a campaign song for her. This became a huge scandal as her lawyers immediately threatened to sue the man, but Winfrey said in a statement that “[she] was flattered.”

Is it really that hard to imagine Oprah as our president? Although Winfrey has no political background whatsoever, people worship this woman. But most importantly, they trust her. They believe in her, in her ideas, her incredible generosity, her wisdom and most importantly, all that she contributes to our world. So, will it be Oprah in 2008?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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