The Making of a National Icon
Truth be told, I don’t actually watch television. The TV is usually on, mostly as an audio background to whatever else I’m doing, but I prefer programming such as news, sports, home/garden/food, and talk shows that don’t require strict attention in order to keep up with what’s going on. I do like NFL and college football and am a long-time fan of NASCAR racing…on my own terms. I’ve often joked that I only need to pay attention to live sports broadcasts when the announcers start talking louder and faster because that’s when something important is happening…exactly my kind of TV!
Over the years, depending on my home and work circumstances, I have occasionally watched the Oprah Winfrey show. What I’ve watched, I’ve enjoyed or, if the topic didn’t suit me, I moved on. Though I haven’t been a regular viewer, I’ve been generally aware of Oprah’s influence on our society. Her book club, various philanthropic endeavors, spectacular season opening and finale shows, weight loss or gain, hairdos, relationships, and the occasional controversy have all received enough media coverage that even I, in my own distracted way, have been able to keep up with her activities.
Looking back over Oprah’s 25-year syndicated television career, it’s quite amazing what she has been able to accomplish. Oprah’s beginnings were modest (difficult, impoverished childhood, early work in local radio and television, and a struggling Chicago-market talk show that eventually led to her syndicated television show) but, more power to her, she was able to capitalize on, and probably often created, opportunities that led to other successful ventures. She has been a fixture in our public life for so long that it’s hard, looking forward, to imagine daytime TV without her. It’s even more difficult to imagine 2011 America without the societal and cultural changes she has influenced over the past quarter century.
She made us laugh and cry and think. Sometimes she even made us angry. She encouraged us to read. She shared with us her own victories and challenges. She befriended many current talk show celebrities and helped them launch their own successful shows. She used her wealth and fame to champion causes that needed, well, a champion.
Love her or not, I think Oprah has had, and likely will continue to have, a positive impact on our society. With a wonderful combination of talent, hard work, imagination, and a break or two along the way, she truly has become a national icon. I, for one, am looking forward to what’s next for Oprah because I think she’s probably just getting started!