On Jan. 7, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her “outstanding contribution to the world of entertainment” at the Golden Globes with a speech that left the country in a frenzy. She conveyed her sense of honor at being the first black woman to be given the award, and touched on her appreciation for the press, but her words mostly addressed the #MeToo movement, notably urging audiences everywhere to fight for “the time when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.”
It was a beautiful and compelling speech, one that said all the right things, and was eloquently delivered by a woman who has worked her way up from nothing to a near godly status in our country. In a matter of hours, speculation of whether Oprah would run for president in 2020 swept the nation, first by social media and, soon after, by coverage from national press.
On Twitter, amid messages of praise (which were absolutely warranted for such a phenomenal speech), the hashtag #Oprah2020 began appearing, along with tweets like this one from author Roxane Gay: “Our president is giving her state of the union,” which garnered 5,114 retweets and 30,055 likes. Before long, every website, newspaper and news show in the country was talking about Oprah’s potential 2020 run. While Oprah herself has not released a statement on the matter, her partner Stedman Graham told the Los Angeles Times “it’s up to the people,” but “she would absolutely do it.”
This isn’t just a half-joke that happened to blow up after someone tweeted it, to clarify, or a hypothetical. We should all know by now that few things, if anything, are hypothetical when it comes to presidential candidates.
To all the people who want Oprah to run I say: hold on! Take one step back and think for just a minute. And before you think you know what I’m going to say, read and find out. I’m not going to say Oprah is like Donald Trump, because she isn’t. But, there are effects of Trump’s rise to the presidency that have led to the over-excitement about Oprah.
When Trump ran against Hillary Clinton, many left-leaning people found themselves unable to support her or reluctantly supportive, something I somewhat understand, but do not agree with. They may not have seen Clinton as their ideal candidate, and the hopelessness that they feel while watching the Trump administration is making them antsy for some sort of savior. Democrats are frantically grasping for a candidate that they can get behind with pride, so when Oprah appears, charismatic and uplifting as ever, it’s easy to encourage her candidacy without thinking much about it.
Are we seriously at the point where someone makes a speech that brings us to tears and makes us want to take action, and, suddenly, they’re presidential material?
And yes, it should be obvious to anyone that Oprah has done a lot more in her life than make an inspiring speech. Oprah is a self-made billionaire who has dedicated much of her money to philanthropy, including the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a South African school for disadvantaged students. She has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, along with Emmys, a Tony and several other honors. Those awards are really just the surface of her successes.
Successes, which did not occur while Oprah served in any level of the United States government. Because, as most people know, she never has; she has no experience. Which recent president of ours, who Oprah’s supporters abhor, entered the Oval Office with zero experience? And again, this isn’t about who would you rather have as president: Oprah or Trump? I don’t doubt that Oprah is informed or that she would select advisors with experience, something that Trump certainly hasn’t done, but what we should be saying, instead is “Oprah for Senate” or “Oprah for Congress.” Even “Oprah for Governor.” Ronald Reagan, also an actor, served two terms as the Governor of California before becoming President of the United States, giving voters enough time to judge if he was really fit for the job. There are also women just as admirable who have devoted their lives to public service and will run in 2020. For a woman who has spent years building up trust with the public and increasing her government experience, it would be hard to see a woman who has never been in government take the shortcut to the presidency, not to mention a possible deprivation for the country of a more qualified leader.
Something else we have learned from the Trump administration is the array of problems that arise when the president is involved in business. It is the general consensus that Oprah has morals and would therefore divest, unlike someone else we know, but the relationships that are formed over decades of running a corporation are not easily severed, and can therefore influence decisions, consciously or not. The Oprah Winfrey Network, for instance, has partnerships with advertisers. Those advertisers have the capacity to wield great power over her, because even if we prefer to think that Oprah would be immune to external pressures, her business is like her child.
The bottom line is, we cannot forget to think. If we have learned anything from the current presidency, it’s that it’s a good idea to let a person make their governmental mistakes before they are commander-in-chief. Maybe, if it’s not too late, we can start with #Oprah2018.