Celebrities For President!

In case you hadn’t heard about it — that is, in case you were stationed in Antarctica — Oprah Winfrey gave a moving speech at the Golden Globes awards show on Sunday night, and now lots of people are saying she should run for President in 2020.  Sources are saying that Winfrey is “actively considering” making such a run.

telemmglpict000150742729_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqm4jyxbdwa13jcdosysta2-snmrgcd6wdaswajbpatnmIt’s interesting that a speech given at one of those ever-present, self-congratulatory Hollywood awards shows, in the center of the culture of harassment, misogyny and denial that gave rise to Harvey Weinstein — who incidentally won a lot of those self-congratulatory awards, including a Golden Globe at a prior, glitzy ceremony — should be seen as positioning one of our country’s most well-known, well-liked celebrities for a run for the country’s top job.  It tells you something important, I think, about how many people are searching for someone to lead the country in a different direction — and obviously aren’t finding anyone compelling in the current crop of American political leaders who have followed the more traditional gubernatorial and senatorial paths to a potential presidential bid.

In the age of President Donald Trump, it’s hard to argue about what constitutes being “qualified” for the presidency anymore.  Trump was a wealthy businessman who became a celebrity; Oprah Winfrey is a celebrity who became a very successful businesswoman.  If Donald Trump can run for President, then so can Oprah Winfrey.  We’ll have to wait and see whether she wants to expose herself and her friends and family to the kind of relentless, withering scrutiny that presidential candidates receive in the modern world of 24-hour news channels, internet news outlets, and political blogs.  With Oprah Winfrey’s years of TV broadcasts, magazine articles, and long career in the public eye, the campaigns of other contenders in 2020 will have a lot of  material to sift through to try to find one or two damning statements or issues that always seem to be the focus of presidential campaigns these days — and somewhere, some flunky has probably already started that task.

So while we wait to see whether Oprah Winfrey actually decides to throw her hat in the ring, let’s reflect on what the outpouring of adulation she received says about the other people who might be contenders.  It’s not a positive endorsement, is it?  People may be turning to the notion of celebrities running for President for a lot of reasons — like fighting Trumpian celebrityhood with other celebrityhood — but one obvious impetus is that they aren’t finding anyone exciting among the politicians who are thought to be lining up for a shot at the job.  Given the performance of our political class over the past few years, can anyone blame people for hoping that celebrities might be the answer?

Thoughts on Oprah’s Book Club

In 2001, you may remember, Oprah took Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections off her book club list after the author told interviewers that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with her endorsement.

The media portrayed Franzen as a snob worried that Oprah’s sticker would debase his masterpiece, but I think he had good reasons for doubting whether Oprah’s endorsement was good for his book. The presence of that gold sticker on the cover could label the novel as just the latest offering from Oprah’s self-improvement empire, and not the insightful work of fiction he intended it to be.

When Franzen finally released his next novel, Freedom, this year, Oprah offered him a second chance to contribute to her club, and he accepted without expressing any qualms. He even appeared on Oprah’s show earlier this week for a discussion on the book, which you can watch here.

I’ve always been skeptical about Oprah and her effect on American society. Her influence scares me, especially when she promotes self-help hacks like Dr. Phil who offer a cheap, sensational way of looking at life. After watching her discussion with Franzen and looking more closely at her book club, however, I’ve come to think that my opinion of her was mistaken. I give Oprah credit for motivating millions of Americans not only to read, but to read challenging, thoughtful books. In addition to Freedom, her book club list includes worthwhile books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Elie Wiesel’s Night, as well as classics like East of Eden by John Steinbeck and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I guess I was mistaken when I thought the list consisted mostly of phony redemption stories like A Million Little Pieces.

I was also impressed by the questions Oprah and her audience asked Franzen about his book. They seemed to have thought hard about its meaning and its application to their lives, which is how books should be read.

Oprah is a rare example of an influential media person who is actually concerned with steering our culture in a better direction, instead of just pleasing the masses to make a quick buck. I don’t know enough about the rest of her empire to offer an opinion of her overall effect on our society – like I said, I don’t like Dr. Phil’s way of looking at things, and I know she’s caused some controversy by giving a platform to people who claim that immunization shots cause autism. But I support what she’s doing with her book club.

Is This All it Takes To Be Happy ?

Oprah had a good show on the week before last where she did some interviews with citizens from other countries around the world that are considered the world’s happiest. Denmark consistently makes it to the top of the list year after year and below is the clip from her show.

There were several interesting points in the article titled Denmark the Happiest Place on Earth.

1 – Danes have an amazing level of trust for each other, their laws and for their government.

2 – Danes pay very high taxes, in fact the highest in the world, from 50% to 70%, but the government pays for all of the healthcare and education for it’s citizens. These are two huge burdens that Americans have trouble dealing with on their own. The government also provides a safety net when citizens lose their jobs. These situations are often cause for much stress in the United States.

3 – Denmark is a post consumerist society, with little emphasis on buying “stuff” whereas Americans need a bigger house or an additional car.

Believe me I’m not complaining and I am very happy with my life because it’s a very simple one. I’m not advocating a government takeover, but just some food for thought !