‘Til We Meet Again Oprah
Thanks for the insight, for the inspiration … we’ll take it from here.
I just watched the final Oprah episode. (Thanks to a neighbour with Tivo and a television – I have neither).
Her last show was simply Oprah, no guests, standing in front of the camera giving thanks to her audience the world over that have supported her these past 25 years and sharing for the last time all the lessons she had learned from the common threads that she recognised in the more than 30,000 people she had interacted across her 4561 episodes.
Her speech had the intelligence of a lecture, the passion of a sermon, and the tenderness of a caring mother releasing her children out into the world. I loved it – and was honoured and inspired to hear her words born of best intentions and a lot of experience.
I’ve included a transcript of my favourite parts below.
Whatever your opinion of Oprah you’ve got to give the woman her due. As Madonna so eloquently said in the 3rd to last Oprah episode, a celebrity-soaked love-fest at Chicago’s United Centre “She’s a self-made woman who’s been at the top of her game for over 25 years, and she is still kicking ass. She fights for things she believes in even if it makes her unpopular. She has balls and a wealth of compassion.” I couldn’t agree more.
I first discovered Oprah had balls back in her show’s first national season (1986/87) when she went to Forsyth County to tape a show in a community where no African-American had lived for more than 75 years. I remember how she angered African-Americans at the time by restricting her audience solely to the Caucasians living there. They felt they wouldn’t have a voice, but what they hadn’t counted on was Oprah and her voice. Rather than let it become a mud-slinging match, as the only African-American in the room she proceeded to try and understand their views on African-Americans and when the discussion would skew towards racism and stereotypes she would hold herself up as an example, and the racist remarks were seen for what they were, and stereotypes quickly deflated.
Then, at a time when hysteria and misinformation abounded, she tackled AIDS in a small town in West Virginia after the town panicked when a man with AIDS jumped into the local swimming pool.
Of course, who could forget her bravery in sharing her abuse as a child with her audience? From then on in she was an open book and her audience loved her for it. For her honesty, for her accessibility – something she was able to straddle over the years despite her rapid rise in fame & fortune. She was the woman you’d like to have around for lunch and the billionaire studio owner you admired. “Don’t let anyone tell you that having your own jet plane isn’t fantastic,” she once said. “It is.”
As a writer and avid reader how I could I not love her Book Club and what it did for book sales, intelligent stories and the simple joy of reading in an ever increasingly technologically-distracted society.
Beyond being a devoted watcher of her show (I used to time my lunch breaks in the work day to catch her show) I had two personal encounters with Oprah. I was in Chicago to interview Playboy CEO Christie Hefner when I was invited to watch the taping of her show (Julia Roberts & Mel Gibson were promoting their new film Conspiracy Theory at the time) and met with her after the show for a story I was writing for Australia’s New Woman magazine. The second encounter was when I wrote a heartfelt letter to Oprah that she responded to. (During her last show she told viewers of her new email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – She said that if you get an email from this address it will be from her. I believe her.)
Her Facebook page is filled with comments from followers/fans that are wondering what they will do without Oprah to fill their afternoon, to guide them. And perhaps that’s what I loved most about Oprah’s final show, it was one last handover of the baton of responsibility, reiterating the message she’s championed for so long: The power is within you, the whispers of what to do with your life are there to direct you, to guide you if you choose to listen. Now, after 25 years of encouragement, of insight, of sharing her lessons learned, and those of countless guests brave enough to say ‘These were my mistakes and this is how I’ve learned from them”, in her last show Oprah summed them up, reminded us of their value and then with a gentle shove has pushed us out into our own world to stand on our own and put those lessons into action. After 25 years of shepherding, we’re on our own.
Personally Selected Transcripts from Oprah’s Final Episode
(This amazed me! From the first show (!) Oprah proclaimed her vision for the show; a vision that stayed true throughout her 25 year run.)
On September 8, 1986, the first national episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast into homes across America. “After deliberating for some time, we decided to do what we do best, and that is a show about and with everyday people. This show always allows people, hopefully, to understand the power they have to change their own lives. If there’s one thread running through each show we do, it is the message that you are not alone.
“Two years later, when we went national, I remember at the time, Roger King told me that one station manager said that he’d rather put a potato in a chair in his market than have a big black girl with a funny name. And in spite of that, from Memphis to Macon, from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, from New York to New Orleans, you all let me in.”
“The first week we went national, I remember I got a letter from a woman named Carrie in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Carrie said, ‘Oprah, watching you be yourself makes me want to be more of myself.’ That was and still remains one of the nicest things I ever heard. What Carrie felt is what I wanted for every single one of you. I wanted to encourage you to be more of yourself just as you all encouraged me, and you cheered me on and occasionally complained about my outfits, my big hair and earrings the size of napkins. Now I see you had every reason to.
“What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. We saw it in the volunteers who rocked abandoned babies in Atlanta. We saw it with those lovely pie ladies from Cape Cod making those delicious potpies. … We saw it every timeTina Turner, Celine, Bocelli or Lady Gaga lit up the stage with their passion. Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”
“My great wish for all of you who have allowed me to honor my calling through this show is that you carry whatever you’re supposed to be doing, carry that forward and don’t waste any more time. Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.”
“Nobody but you is responsible for your life. It doesn’t matter what your mama did; it doesn’t matter what your daddy didn’t do. You are responsible for your life. … You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.
All life is energy and we are transmitting it at every moment. We are all little beaming little signals like radio frequencies, and the world is responding in kind.
“Remember physics class? Did you pay attention to Newton’s third law of motion? Let me tell you, that thing is real. It says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
“I learned from the guests on this show, no need to feel superior to anybody. Because whether it’s heroin addiction or gambling addiction or shopping addiction or food addiction, work addiction, the root is all the same. The show has taught me there is a common thread that runs through all of our pain and all of our suffering, and that is unworthiness. Not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for. Even people who believe they deserve to be happy and have nice things often don’t feel worthy once they have them.
“There is a difference, you know, between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy of happiness.
“What I got was we often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough – the show has taught me you’re worthy because you are born and because you are here. Your being here, your being alive makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.”
“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’
“Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgment. Now I can’t say I wasn’t judging some days. Some days, I had to judge just a little bit. But it’s helped me to stand and to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'”
“The only time I’ve ever made mistakes is when I didn’t listen. So what I know is, God is love and God is life, and your life is always speaking to you. First in whispers. … It’s subtle, those whispers. And if you don’t pay attention to the whispers, it gets louder and louder. It’s like getting thumped upside the head, like my grandmother used to do. … You don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that, the whole brick wall falls down. That’s the pattern I’ve seen in my life, and it’s played out over and over again on this show.”
“You all have been a safe harbor for me for 25 years. It’s strange, I know, but you have been. And what I hope is that you all will be that safe harbor for somebody else—their safe place to fall. Do for them what you all are telling me the show has done for you. Connect. Embrace. Liberate. Love somebody. Just one person. And then spread that to two. And as many as you can. You’ll see the difference it makes.
“I’ve been asked many times during this farewell season, ‘Is ending the show bittersweet?’ Well, I say all sweet. No bitter. And here is why: Many of us have been together for 25 years. We have hooted and hollered together, had our aha! moments, we ugly-cried together and we did our gratitude journals. So I thank you all for your support and your trust in me. I thank you for sharing this yellow brick road of blessings. I thank you for tuning in every day along with your mothers and your sisters and your daughters, your partners, gay and otherwise, your friends and all the husbands who got coaxed into watching Oprah. And I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration for me as I’ve tried to be for you.
“I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say…until we meet again.”