Oprah Winfrey tipped to be next US president

Preach: “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” © Getty

Should Oprah Winfrey run for president? After a stirring Golden Globes speech some think she could beat Trump in 2020. But for others, another TV star in the White House would be a disaster.

“A new day is on the horizon!”

This was Oprah Winfrey’s rousing proclamation at the Golden Globes on Sunday — the crescendo of a showstopping speech which some think confirmed her as a serious contender to be America’s next president.

In the address Winfrey expressed solidarity with all women suffering from sexual abuse and decried a “culture broken by brutally powerful men”. But now, she declared, “Their time is up.”

The message was received rapturously. Actress Meryl Streep said Winfrey “launched a rocket” and that she wants her to “run for president”. When asked if this could happen, Winfrey’s long-term partner Stedham Graham claimed she “would absolutely do it”.

It is uncertain if Winfrey actually will run — sources say she is “actively thinking” about it. But her speech certainly struck a presidential tone. For example, her description of “hope for a brighter morning” echoed the “Hope” slogan Barack Obama used in the 2008 election.

She also passionately defended the press for fighting against “corruption and injustice” — the opposite to Donald Trump who has called reporters “enemies of the American people”.

A presidential run would continue a remarkable rise for Winfrey. Born into poverty in Alabama, her family was so poor she often wore clothes made of old potato sacks. However, she grew up to make fortune in broadcasting — largely due to her pioneering TV show The Oprah Winfrey Show.

But this showbiz background is rare among world leaders (Donald Trump is an exception).

For example, Barack Obama was a community organiser before he became a civil rights lawyer. Abraham Lincoln, often considered one of America’s greatest presidents, also started out as a lawyer.

And outside the USA, leaders like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela honed their skills by organising armies of activists and fighting for civil rights.

So should Oprah Winfrey run for president in 2020?

Command-her in chief

She has no relevant experience, some say. The chaos of Trump’s administration shows what happens when those unsuited to office get power. Oprah is a wonderful communicator, but presidents need more than a glossy exterior — superhuman management and diplomatic skills are just the start. America needs a true professional at the top, not a TV star.

She is more than a TV personality, others respond. The empire she built from nothing required integrity, perseverance, and intelligence — qualities which would make an excellent president (and lacking in many "professional" politicians). What is more, her commitment to gender and social equality will inspire voters with its unapologetic optimism — something desperately needed in our increasingly fractured society.

You Decide

  1. Would Oprah make a good President?
  2. Do people from non-political backgrounds make better politicians?

Activities

  1. What quality do you think is the most important to be a successful president or prime minister — pick just one word. Go around the class and share the words you have chosen. Do you think any one person is able to have all the qualities you have described?
  2. Do some research into previous presidents of the United States. Use the Forbes article in Become An Expert as a starting point. Do you find any of their backgrounds surprising? Which job do you think is the best preparation for becoming a world leader?

Some People Say...

“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”

Oprah Winfrey

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Oprah Winfrey was the first black multi-billionaire in the USA. She has also been ranked as the most generous black philanthropist in America. Furthermore, Time has included her on their list of the year’s 100 most influential people nine times — the third most behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
What do we not know?
Whether Oprah will run for president. Last year she told The Hollywood Reporter that she “will never run for public office”. However, later that year she re-tweeted an article with the headline “Democrats’ best hope for 2020: Oprah”. In 1988 Oprah interviewed Donald Trump and asked him if he would ever run for President — “Probably not,” he replied.

Word Watch

Speech
She was receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement — the first ever black woman to receive the honour.
Exception
Trump starred in fourteen seasons of the The Apprentice. He also made cameo appearances in several television shows including WrestleMania 23, Sex and the City, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Community organiser
The role focuses on trying to effect positive social change in local communities.
Greatest
The 2000 report Ranking Our Presidents by James Lindgren claimed that Lincoln was the second greatest American President behind George Washington. The study combined the analysis of 78 scholars across multiple disciplines.
Mahatma Ghandi
Ghandi led the Indian independence movement against British rule, encouraging non-violent protest as a way to achieve political goals. He was assassinated in 1948.
Nelson Mandela
Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid campaigner. He was imprisoned for 27 years as a result of his activism, but went on to become the first black President of South Africa in 1994.