WHY OPRAH WINFREY FOR PRESIDENT MAY NOT BE SUCH A CRAZY IDEA
Monday, January 8, 2018
The Des Moines Register
Sunday night, the entertainment elite gathered to celebrate themselves. Again.
They do this often because a broad swath of the public is always willing to tune in – apparently pretty people saying pretty things is an easy sell.
The gala du jour was the Golden Globes, the one where the Hollywood Foreign Press hands out trophies to television and movie types during a swanky dinner at a glitzy hotel. Events such as the Globes, the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Tonys don't vary much from year to year or from each other. However, occasionally, an award recipient or presenter has been known to add something relevant to a national discussion by veering from the usual script.
The 2018 Golden Globes may be remembered for something more significant; it may have served as the launching stage of a presidential candidate.
Depending on the climate of the times, many stars use award broadcasts to protest or show support for something. Some go it alone as Bette Davis did in 1936, wearing a dowdy costume from the set of “Housewife” instead of a ball gown to make a statement about the objectification of women. Katharine Hepburn followed Davis’ lead by appearing at the 1974 Oscars ceremony clad in dirty gardening clothes and clogs.
More often, the stars align. They coordinate the message, wearing red ribbons to bring attention to AIDS, blue ribbons to support civil rights and the ACLU, or pink ones to raise awareness for breast cancer. This year's Golden Globes attendees shunned colorful garb and wore black to speak out against the sexual harassment our country, at long last, has begun to find the courage to confront.
Women were front and center at the Beverly Hilton soiree last night. Barbara Streisand, the only woman to receive a Golden Globe for directing, was there. She won for directing “Yentl” in 1984. The often-unvarnished Frances McDormand accepted her globe for acting by standing up for women and saying, “Trust me: The women in this room tonight are not here for the food. We are here for the work.”
But the most poignant speech was delivered by industry icon Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah (does she need a last name?) began her acceptance of the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille award for a lifetime of contributions by recalling how she felt watching Sidney Poitier receive his Oscar in 1964. Oprah told us how as a young girl sprawled on her mother’s linoleum kitchen floor in Milwaukee she watched a black man be the first to break through this particular wall of racism. We could sense this moment was one of the many that made Oprah the woman she is today.
Oprah spoke of women who stood firm to bring change in the world. She talked of unsung heroes and those who have taken their place in history books. Oprah addressed the importance of free speech and the crucial role of an independent and vigorous media. She challenged her listeners to be better people. Most significant, she oozed confidence and control. Oprah wanted us to see she could be trusted to hold the light high and that she was capable of pointing the way forward.
Oprah was not just performing; she was leading. She elevated her audience, revealing a new perspective of our nation’s horizon. She wanted people to feel a part of something larger than themselves. Oprah did not mention a candidacy, but few who watched could deny there was more to this than Hollywood showmanship.
At a time when the current occupant of the White House is so preoccupied with self, tweeting things such as “my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Oprah reminded us America can be and should be something more than it is today. Our charge isn’t to make America Great again; our charge is to make America live up to the ideals we have yet to achieve.
It is possible the leader who will show the way to that bright new day may have taken the first steps walking to a podium in Hollywood last night. Crazier things have happened.