Oprah, Please Don’t Run

Why President Oprah isn’t such a great idea.


At the Golden Globes ceremony on January 7th, Oprah Winfrey did what she’s done for decades: deliver inspiring, thoughtful, and powerful words. Her speech, which followed her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, touched on topics including sexual assault, gender inequality, racial injustice, and the free press. She was met with a resounding standing ovation from the star studded audience, many of whom were caught on camera subtly wiping their eyes. Immediately, the hashtag #Oprah2020 began trending. The idea started to gain traction among Twitter users and celebrities as reports began to surface that the television mogul could actually be considering a presidential run. The notion, which had at first seemed to be yet another joke of a celebrity-turned-president, was beginning to gain considerable weight. CNN stated that she was “actively thinking” of running and Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime partner, told a LA Times reporter “She would absolutely do it.” Even political experts weighed in, such as former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, who said that he thought “the Oprah thing isn’t crazy”.
The acclaimed speech held heightened influence after a year riddled with sexual assault allegations and tumultuous politics. To many, it symbolized much needed relief and hope from the media figure who has served as an inspiration to millions throughout her career.
Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi to a teenage mother. The television star had a rough upbringing in which
she was sexually abused and lived in abject poverty. At 13, she ran away from home and became pregnant a year later; however her child died after being born prematurely. After returning to high school, Winfrey received a full scholarship from Tennessee State University, which she attended while working part time at the local radio station. She first found herself in the spotlight in 1976 when she hosted chat show People are Talking in Baltimore. Later, after spending some time as a morning show host in Chicago, she launched the renowned Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for twenty five years. Even in a severely male dominated field, Oprah quickly rose to the top. As TIME Magazine put it, “What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plain spoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all, empathy.” Oprah is an example of an inspiring, self made billionaire, much unlike our current President.

She has overcome significant
adversity and
could empathize with countless Americans.
In all honesty, Oprah could probably win a presidential race. She has incited more change than most celebrities, for instance, in the 90s she lobbied for the National Child Protection Act, helping to create a network of known abusers. Furthermore, Winfrey is profoundly charismatic and well spoken and has high favorability numbers across the country. The problem is what she would do when she reached the highest office in the land. She would be an eloquent and unifying leader regarding social change but she would be unable to successfully negotiate with members of Congress or foreign dignitaries, as she completely lacks political experience.
The first year of the Trump presidency has undoubtedly proven the need for a dedicated, career politician at the helm of our nation. The country is becoming increasingly divided, and essentially nothing has been accomplished in terms of policy. We desperately need a commander in chief who has comprehensive working knowledge of social issues, domestic problems, and foreign affairs.
Additionally, the presidency is not to be considered a trophy for billionaire celebrities. Donald Trump’s first year in office has transformed the Oval Office—usually held in indisputably high regard—into a running punchline. While Oprah is an inspiring and dynamic figure, it is essential that celebrities and politicians remain in their separate spheres. The presidency should be defined by dedication and public service, not by glamour and showmanship.
Oprah is currently one of the most influential people in the world. She has touched millions of lives throughout her career and she continues to do so today. She doesn’t need the presidency to gain any more power or prestige. The desperate plea for Oprah to run for president is once instance in a larger societal pattern that begs women of color to do the dirty work. However, political parties rarely cater to them and instead tokenize them throughout campaigns. The need for diversity in public office is imperative. Instead of calling on a television personality to run, we must elect qualified women of color to public office.