By Richard Ray
“Yes She Can”, but will she?
Oprah Winfrey’s stirring speech as the Cecil B. de Mille award winner at the Golden Globes, was riveting in part for the message of empowerment directed at women, and almost as a byproduct for the message of hope it gave to many Americans, exhausted by negativity and divisiveness. #Oprah2020 is real to many and far from implausible.
Ever since she burst onto the national scene in 1986 with her syndicated talk show, Oprah became one of the most popular, loved and richest self made women in the world. Though her show ended in 2011, her popularity has barely diminished even has her high visibility has slightly. Her recognition as an inspirational leader extends well beyond the United States. In 2008 the Oprah Winfrey show was broadcast in 140 countries including Saudi Arabia, with Arabic subtitles in addition to the 46 million plus US viewers per week.
To say that Oprah has been beloved and inspirational to multiple generations would be vastly underestimating her impact on generations and the culture. Her shows were known for providing knowledge of self, health and wealth. (Oprah is widely considered to have a net worth over $4 Billion dollars from her interests in Harpo productions which owns OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) and is the producer of other daytime television shows such as Dr. Phil, Dr. OZ, Rachel Ray and Iyania: Fix My Life.
Even with her vast wealth, popularity and high Q ratings (that identify the familiarity and popularity of a brand), prior to 2017 it would have been inconceivable that a political neophyte such as Oprah could be a contender to hold the highest political office in the land with no prior experience. Trump’s improbable victory has totally changed the rules and now it may even be possible that voters may seek fresh faces to politics in opposition to lifelong politicians. and the current political climate.
Like Trump, Oprah is a brand. She doesn’t have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to explain who she is or get her message across. In part she has done that and because of her popularity and visibility she has a platform that the media will cover for free as opposed to others. If she ran in 2020 she would be the most ideal candidate to beat a polarizing figure like Donald Trump. Unlike Hilary Clinton, Oprah has a strong and deeply loyal base of potential woman voters. Blacks and other People Of Color (POC) would be as galvanized by an Oprah candidacy as they were in 2008 to a then much less known candidate who’s endorsement by Oprah was crucial to Obama’s success.
Oprah is the positive change so many Americans are seeking in this time of turmoil and divisiveness. I think that Oprah beats Trump in a landslide in a race for the US presidency. The question really is not whether Oprah would win, the question is will she really run and just as importantly why would she? In her six plus years from retirement from the daily public spotlight, Oprah appears to be living an exciting and full life. She works on her network, companies and projects that have meaning to her. Voluntarily taking on the problems of the US and much of the world might not sound too appealing to someone who has it all minus the extreme daily stresses… But of course, Oprah is not everyone.
I, like many, hope that Oprah decides to run for president. She is not without flaws, but her generosity, empathy and inspiration to others is exactly what this country needs, wrapped within the frame of one of the greatest self made billionaires of all time. She has all of the qualities we want in a leader, the question really becomes does she want the headache of the job. As Trump has learned, the autonomy of being the CEO of a privately held company is much different than juggling partisan politics and the demands of doing things on other’s timelines no longer just her own.
I know Oprah saw the internet abuzz after her speech. The people need to understand that just as they have the right to complain about leadership they are displeased with, they also have the right… no, they have the obligation to clamor for candidates that they want to step out to the forefront. If we want #Oprah2020 then we must call for it loudly and regularly, until she clearly says no thank you.
However, as her longtime partner told The Los Angeles Times after her Golden Globe speech, relating to the idea of her running for president “It’s up to the people. She would absolutely run.”… It’s up to the people if you want your voice to be heard.
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