Oprah Winfrey gave an incredible speech last night at the Golden Globes. She was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” Oprah used the opportunity to connect her experience seeing Sidney Poitier win that same award in 1982 with the experience of young girls who were watching her last night. Oprah was focused, inspiring and, most of all, generous.
We live in a distracted world. Moments when everybody pays attention are rare and getting rarer. Oprah used her moment to direct our attention to the importance of a free press to bring truth to light against corruption and abuse of power. She brought the forgotten life of Recy Taylor out of history and into my attention for the first time. She connected the often unseen struggles of industrial, agricultural, service and military women to the #MeToo movement of Hollywood. She honored the achievements of women while reminding that those achievements are often well-supported by the work of like-minded men. She did it all in under nine minutes.
Predictably, the Morning After headlines read “Oprah for 2020”. I love Oprah. She brings people together rather than pushes them apart. She inspires people to search for the best in themselves and bring that out. More importantly, she inspires people to search for the best in others. She came up through tremendous adversity to become one of the most influential, successful people alive today. Should she be president? I don’t know. I don’t even care right now.
We need to be careful. We have solved or are solving most of the simplest problems in the world. The problems that remain are really, really hard — racial intolerance, global resource distribution, climate change and nuclear holocaust to name just a few. These problems won’t have a single, simple solution and they won’t be solved by a single person, corporation or nation.
And yet, with each passing year, we seem increasingly fixed in the blind hope that electing the right president will save us. President Barack Obama received the Noble Peace Prize just eight months after taking office. The award underscored a phenomenal accomplishment, becoming America’s first African-American president, but the award also seemed to be aspirational, a down payment on expectations that one person’s vision might permanently transform reality. The Nobel Prize was an honor about which Barack Obama himself was conflicted.
Seven years later, slightly less than half of American voters elected the candidate who stood on stage at his party’s national convention and actually spoke aloud the words, “I alone can fix it.” You’ve probably been following the rest of that story.
We keep searching for saviors. The problems you and I face together are scary. They are overwhelming. We keep looking for an Abraham Lincoln, a Winston Churchill or a Luke Skywalker to save us. We won’t find them. Not even Luke Skywalker can save us now.
And so, as we watch Oprah’s eloquent moment, let’s accept it for what it is. An inspiration. A challenge. A call to action.
Oprah for 2020? I don’t know. For the moment, it is just all of us together. If we are inspired, challenged and working together, that can be enough.