Oprah + Color Purple + Dave = Inspiration
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Oprah Winfrey's extraordinary life and her multi-million dollar charity work held the crowd of Ball State University students speechless as television icon David Letterman played biographer.
"Everyone knows what mark they make," said Winfrey, a fellow television icon. "I am still making my mark."
That was the response from Letterman who asked the classic Gene Siskel question, "What do you know for sure?"
The Dave and Oprah show Monday at Emens Auditorium certainly was not comedy, but searched for the meaning of life, as Winfrey did on her wildly popular talk show that evolved into a cable network that is directed to a younger audience judging from recent interviews with pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
The younger audience and very important people that got to see Dave and Oprah live found her struggling to exist in rural Mississippi and a victim of abuse from the hands of a religious grandmother, and later sexually abused and raped while living with her mother in Milwaukee. It was only when she went to live with her father in Nashville, and lost a child from a premature pregnancy as a teenager, that Winfrey got a second chance. That new life was one in public speaking and broadcasting in Tennessee and Chicago.,
Letterman, who grew up in the Indianapolis suburbs, and a Ball State University graduate 40 years ago, repeatedly described Winfrey's life as stunning, extraordinary and remarkable.
"I am stunned." said Letterman. " I lived a much different life.".
"You are a white man, Winfrey responded. "Of course, we had different lives."
Winfrey talked about beatings by her grandmother for simple things like putting her fingers in a bucket of water and playing. And she described the welts so bad that they bled through her Sunday dress.
She also talked about that scene in The Color Purple where she said no girl child was safe in the world with men. That was Winfrey's realty in Milwaukee where she was sexually abused and raped by men she knew and trusted.
Letterman could only say his mother was whipped with a razor strap but he was only spanked. Winfrey also made sure, as she did on her television show, that Jesus was an important part of her life, who she credited for saving her.
Winfrey said people always must be resilient to cruelty and abuse as she has taken to her cause to the world and opened 60 schools for girls in 15 counties. She calls it teaching Life 101. And that education effort amounts to $400 million from her private foundation and another $40 million in leadership programs.
When the talk turned to television, Winfrey had a different view on news where she made her mark with AM Chicago that led to the Oprah Winfrey Show that mean then leader Phil Donahue in the ratings war.
Recalling what Edward R. Murrow said about television being entertaining and enlightening, Winfrey said television was taking a dangerous turn with a message that rude, vulgar, and immoral behavior was acceptable with new realty television that takes confrontational programming like Jerry Springer to a new level. Of course, Winfrey left in her network time with those self help experts Dr. Phil to fill the void of afternoon talk television.
That steady diet of demoralization, she said continues to be supported by billions of dollars in advertising for people who want it now.
Winfrey hated doing the news, saying it was depressing and showed people in pain and misery while newscasters could do nothing about their plight..
That famous Newton's Third Law then came to mind, as Winfrey said, there is an equal reaction for every action.
"Everything you are putting out will come back to you," she said.
With that, some in the audience realized that Dave and Oprah were entertaining while possibly inspiring students to find their way and make their mark.
As hundreds of students waited outside Emens for Oprah and her entourage to leave, Chris mentioned that he has two interviews in Chicago today for possible jobs and was inspired by Oprah's words. Ron talked about how he experienced racism and told a white student he could never understand. There was Mary who wanted to give Winfrey come flowers and her friend that just wanted to see Oprah.
The media icon and her friends came out with Ball State police and private security holding back the crowd as they drove off in black SUVs. Letterman said Winfrey was headed to South Africa for another trip to her schools. And Winfrey made no mention of a recent cancer scare that she did not even tell her best friend King.