One good speech, and the chattering/tweeting/pontificating classes have Oprah making a run for President.
Nanna is no expert on Ms Winfrey’s fitness for public office. By current standards, she’s more than qualified. She is a celebrity who enjoys massive traditional and social media followings. She gave a terrific speech at the Golden Globes. It had the personal story: Oprah as a little girl, sitting on the linoleum, watching Sidney Poitier receive his Oscar in 1964 as her mother walked in “bone tired from cleaning other peoples’ houses”. It had the public issue: the entertainment industry and the “me too” campaign. It had Rosa Parks and Steven Speilberg. And yes, it was reminiscent of many good political speeches – which is what Nanna finds notable. Great speeches are no more than reminiscences. Is this Nanna having a “back in the old days” moment? There was a time when bloody good speeches were far more common and, solid as it was, Oprah’s performance last night would have stirred very little dust.
The ability to make a good speech was once a standard skill for successful political and business leaders. I wrote quite a few, in various backrooms, and it’s an engaging—even thrilling process. Pulling together the data, the anecdotes, selecting the perfect word, coaching and watching the delivery. Heady stuff. Perhaps Ted Talkers still get that sort of pleasure in crafting a message. But why would politicians bother? You get better coverage just declaring yourself “being, like, really smart” and a “very stable genius”. Perhaps you have to be an Oprah Winfrey to get anything you say noticed anyway? Perhaps Barack Obama will be the last great orator we see.
It’s not for Nanna to comment on the paucity of the public discourse, however. That’s for political pundits and cultural critics. I’m interested in flexibility of body, mind and attitude. And I’m loving my fantasy of having Deepak Chopra’s bestie in the Whitehouse. When Oprah launched Super Soul Sunday on mainstream TV, she gave us ordinary bods around the world an introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, Jon Kabat-Zin, Michael Singer, Don Miguel Ruiz and so many more speakers, writers, doctors and spiritual leaders who – whatever your thoughts on the self-help industry – genuinely want people to lead happier lives. She encouraged people to dip a toe into their spiritual dimension. Why not suggest a bit of that special sauce for Pennsylvania Ave? Group meditation before every meeting in the West Wing? The formal setting of an intention before each session of Congress? A national program of positive affirmations? (Starting with “we are a violence-free community”?)
As Oprah said in her speech last night: “speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have”. No one’s tried that for a bit, maybe it’s worth a shot?