So, whoever decided to award Oprah the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes this year probably didn’t realize they might be launching a 2020 presidential candidate.
They knew they were going to be getting an inspiring speech from this icon—one of the most accomplished, prolific, authentic, up-from-poverty entrepreneurs, innovators, and soulful game-changing humanitarians we have. But I don’t know if they understood that hers was exactly the voice so many people desperately needed to hear in the midst of of our #MeToo, TimesUp, Donald Trump world, with its daily division, disgrace, and despair.
A room full of high achievers, used to being the ones in the spotlight, hung on her every word, with so much joy and hope. They were like the Oprah audience that got her most famous giveaway of them all: “You get a car! You get a car! And you get a car!” Celebrities and power brokers were jumping up and down. Folks were hugging each other.
Even more palpable than the enthusiasm was a sense that the audience truly believed what she was saying: “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” And, referring to men who harass and assault women, “Their time is up!”
By the end of the night, the idea of Oprah for President in 2020 was on people’s minds. By morning it was in the mainstream media. Thousands watched the speech online the next day and felt the same clarity, conviction and hope. A friend of mine told me she watched it four times, weeping each time.
Oprah has always been an icon to me. I remember seeing her jogging around the Hanlon Park Reservoir on the west side of Baltimore where I grew up, and where she got her start in TV. Even then, her example was shaping my sense of what was possible. I’d like to think she and I are aligned in our mission in many ways, both of us trying to bridge the gaps and create a world where people can be their best selves. I’m awed by her for so many reasons. But should Oprah be president? In my humble opinion #NOPRAH.
- Oprah can’t be our savior. I totally get it—when we see real leadership, when we hear truth to power, when we are in the energetic space of someone who is walking out their values in real life, our guarded, shriveled hearts open up. We get hopeful, we start breathing again; we feel immediately what we’ve been missing. We all yearn for someone to do what the best leaders do: set a vision that encompasses the dignity and elevation of all lives, courageously calls for justice, and motivates others to contribute to and follow the vision. We want someone to make everything all right, to tell us what to think and tell how to get out of the messes we’ve made. But neither Oprah nor any other one person can be our savior. We are our own saviors. As they say, “We are the ones we have been looking for.”
It’s our job to educate ourselves about the issues, get actively involved and think constantly about the common good. We each have to find the Oprah in ourselves—to use our talent and skills and time to create positive change for others, whether it’s by organizing a voting registration drive or running for an office, teaching our children about privilege, racism and poverty, funding causes that make people’s lives better, or creating art or music that lifts our spirits. We have to learn to cross the divide and, instead of tearing apart those we don’t agree with, finding a way to hear their stories. Oprah is about bridging our differences, letting go of our anger and finding forgiveness. But we need to follow her example, not expect her to do all the work for us.
- She’s just too damn good for the job. Oprah is a proven commodity: hardworking, smart, prosperous, connected, universal, and authentic. She is a power communicator and cares deeply about people. These are all great attributes in a president. But as you may remember, we had a president like that, and many in our country tried to rip him to shreds and hinder his every move. I know Oprah is magic, but the level of racism and sexism she would have to endure—especially in our current climate, where white supremacists and xenophobes have been given permission to be unapologetic about their bigotry—would wear out the precious resource we have in her. (I don’t know how Obama did it for eight years.) Oprah has taught us that finding your purpose and staying in your lane, pursuing it to the fullest, is the secret to happiness and fulfillment. By doing this, she has brought immeasurable joy and hope to millions. Besides, Oprah has a damn fabulous life that she’s living to the hilt! Why would she give it up?
- Oprah has never held an elected office. While Oprah is a genius in many ways (and a stable one, too), let’s face it: She doesn’t have the qualifications to be president. I know what you’re thinking: “Neither do certain other people.” Personality, wealth and celebrity, or even the ability to move and inspire people, are not what the office is about. The office of president requires experience in governing, and an understanding of policy-making and international relations. And the U.S. is not intended to operate as a monarchy or autocracy, where one person calls all the shots. I think some people believe Oprah could change all that’s wrong with the stroke of her wand. But that’s not how a democracy works. (Maybe someone should tell our current president.)
- What would become of all of Oprah’s other projects and collaborations? What would happen to Queen Sugar, one of my favorite shows? Who would compile the List of Favorite Things? What about the Master Class? As I watched the sizzle reel of Oprah’s accomplishment at the Golden Globes, I was reminded of how much she has contributed to our culture, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Her talk show gave so many people from different backgrounds a chance to meet each other, reveal their stories, cry, and be redeemed. Her roles in The Color Purple, Beloved, Selma and others. Her Super Soul Sunday. If Oprah were president, we would lose the beautiful ways she teaches and entertains us while investing in other creatives who want to do the same.
- And one more thing… I’m sorry, but I just can’t get the image out of my head, and it just doesn’t feel right: Oprah walking into the congressional chamber to give the State of the Union to people chanting “Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!” and the Master of Arms announcing her as “THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STAAAAAATES”!
Look, if Oprah ultimately makes the decision to run, I will pull out all the stops to support her. When I first heard that Barack, my friend and classmate, was running for President, I felt the same way: Please don’t! You don’t have enough experience and you are too awesome! But when he made the decision to do so, I was right behind him, knowing he had weighed all the considerations and that his motivations were pure.
So, if the amazing Oprah, in consultation with her wide network of her powerful and wise counsel, decides to get out from under that enormous life-giving tree on her ranch, spend less time in her garden in Hawaii or on yachts with her badass group of besties and launch a campaign, this I know for sure: she will be making an enormous sacrifice and is indeed the ultimate patriot. I will eat my words, open my wallet and start canvassing door to door. I will send her all my love and faith that she is answering the call to live her best life, just as she has always urged all of us to do. But for now, it’s #NOPRAH—with the highest respect and love.