Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 Years of the Great Big O!

Today is sad day for Television, the end of perhaps the greatest talk show in history is coming to a close. The Oprah Winfrey Show ends after 25 years in syndication. That in itself is quite an amazing feat. Being able to retain an audience and ratings for two seasons is great, 5 seasons? amazing! 10? unheard of! 25?? Well that's something only the great Oprah Winfrey has been able to do. Why? I think its because Oprah was much more than a talk show, she compelled us to tune in, and she did so without the shock jock factor. No, as a matter of fact, every single episode that aired had a purpose, and that purpose was to open up someones life, change someones viewpoint, give somebody their "aha" moment. Oprah was not a talk show host,no she is the world's greatest teacher. Sure, she has her fun moments....Oprah's favorite things, her talks with hot celebrities, but her greatest legacy will not be that she aired for 25 years, but that for 25 years she taught the world how to be better, one person at a time.

Here are the top 5 things I've learned from watching Oprah:

1) Tolerance. Easy word, difficult concept. It is not easy to explain to someone the value of being tolerant of others. We are taught as children by others (our parents, our peers) prejudices either directly or indirectly. I remember watching Oprah when she had a panel of white supremacists on her you remember that episode? I remember it clearly because that was the first time I was ever really exposed to such hatred and racism. I am not white and yet I lived quite the sheltered life. I didn't know Racism existed like that in present day until that show. It was an eye opener not only for me, but for many people across the country. It was the first time that it was openly exposed and was being exposed by a black woman who wasn't going to let these racists leave without a fight. The lesson? Tolerance, because tolerance is best learned when we are exposed to that to which you are uncomfortable with and that episode made a lot of people uncomfortable.
2) A love of Reading. I have always loved to read, but America, not so much. That is until Oprah introduced her Book Club. She not only encouraged America to open a book, she invited them to discuss it with her, invited the author for insights, and engaged a country and the world in a book. When I think about it, its funny to me, that it took someone to tell us to enjoy books. But hey whatever works. Oprah's Book Club Author's boast #1 spots on the New York Bestseller List and spark conversations, change viewpoints and educate. It helps that all the books Oprah chooses have something to say . A simple idea made possible through an extraordinary woman.
3) Weight/Health care- Oprah is a woman and like many women she struggled with her weight and her image of herself. We all watched how she fluctuated through the years until that one infamous episode where she wheels out a wagon of actual fat onto the stage. WE cheered for her and then we watched as she slowly gained it all back and then some. This made her Human and accessible. She was always open about her battle with her weight and we thanked her, but the moment that Oprah accepted the fact she would never be a size 4, was the moment we all also had an AHA moment. Women came in all sizes and that didn't mean you were any less pretty, sexy, smart, valuable than a size 2.
With that realization came Oprah's quest to educate us on how to be healthy individuals, not skinny, but healthy. That meant teaching us how to eat, what to eat, what to look for, and that required none other Dr. OZ.
You all remember the poop episode right? Where we were shown actual poop, what it should look like, what color it should be and what shape it should be...S!! That episode made people look at their poop and has saved hundreds of lives.

The lesson here? If you give people the tools to understand what they are looking for, they have the power to heal themselves
4) Education. There is nothing in this world that will keep you in poverty like the lack of an education. It's true that knowledge is power and education is freedom. I believe that no one knew this better than Oprah herself. Growing up in a poverty stricken neighborhood she rose to become one of the most influential person of our time. The sad reality is that no matter how much one may want to get an education, we are not all afforded to do so, so Oprah led a campaign to change that. The Angel Network was launched to send those who financially could not go to college, the chance to do so. The Angel Network did two things made scholarships for kids, but it also created a urgency to the world to step up and do our individual parts. It takes a village to raise a child, and whats worse than having a child's talent go to waste because they simply couldn't afford to go to school? Millions have been raised, and the best part? Most that have received a scholarship through Oprah's angel network are so grateful for being given the chance to succeed in life that they themselves contribute back to the network to help give an education to another underprivileged child. Its a never ending cycle that keeps giving. Isn't that wonderful? The greatest lesson here? All it takes is one to start, a seed to grow into something great.
5) Every single one of us has learned some wise wisdom from Oprah. Its different for everyone, which attests to the fact that her 25 years were not just filling air time on the television. She was educating, eye opening, changing us all.
For me that wise fact has always been " You are good enough just the way you are. All by yourself. " I remember that episode, she kept saying it over and over and she kept saying it because that's quite a profound statement. To believe that in this very exact moment, right now, you are good enough, for whatever. And to top it off your good enough by yourself, without a husband, or a job, or children or anything that defines lives, just you, alone are good enough.
I say that affirmation daily to myself because I find that in my low moments it reminds me that I alone have the power to be happy and that I am good enough, right now,all by myself.

And so 25 years of the Oprah Winfrey show will end today, but that affirmation will live in me for many more years to come. Just as some other wisdom will live on in some of you all from the same woman, from the same show. Oprah's greatest legacy will be what she has taught us all who watched. In the end its all about kindness, tolerance, and compassion for those you share the world with.

Thank you Oprah.

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