Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Influence of Oprah

One of the segments on the evening news yesterday was the personal endorsement Oprah Winfrey is providing for Barack Obama. It amazed me to see the people who were at the rally because of Oprah. I do not watch much TV and very seldom see more than a single segment of Oprah's show; she seems like a very genuine, intelligent woman with an honest desire to improve our society at all levels. I must admit I am a little weary of seeing her name in print everywhere -- her book club, her magazine, her Best Life Diet. However, I also avoid the magazines and scandal sheets in the checkout line at the grocery store because I tire of hearing about Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, etc, etc.

Oprah seems to epitomize the good in our society -- she provides a sterling example of the rich helping the poor improve their condition, which is not the norm today. I hope that Oprah's popularity is in part due to her ability to reveal to us the serious issues facing some of the more powerless among us, and her desire to use her own wealth and influence to encourage change.

However, as I watched the news last night, I had this nagging question in my mind. Were these people at the rally to listen to Barack Obama's ideas and evaluate them, or were they there solely for the glitz of Oprah. Will they actually vote for a candidate because Oprah says they should, just as they read the books that Oprah promotes. Is Oprah's star power that strong. And, then, what does that say about our society. In a Presidential election as crucial as this one, are we actually willing to vote for someone based on the endorsement of an entertainer?

Although I think Barack Obama is a viable candidate, and in a political climate where media exposure is critical to success, Oprah's endorsement is a "plum", I have serious concerns about the influence of "star" power as opposed to serious evaluation of a candidate.

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