A Project for Better Journalism chapter

And You Get to be President! And You Get to be President!

Photo collaboration: hollywoodreporter.com, Mady Hand

I can safely promise you that I do not plan to support Oprah in a presidential election anytime soon. Do not get me wrong: I think she is an amazing TV host, reality star, and philanthropic example.  She is not, however, presidential material. The office of the president should be run by a pinnacle American—it should be the person who best embodies America’s values, beliefs and ideals, with the knowledge and experience needed to run a country. While Oprah exemplifies the former, she lacks on the latter. In the wake of recent elections, however, this concept has been bastardized. Popular support of famous yet unqualified celebrities has trivialized the position. Today, any member of Hollywood who puts a fleeting thought, and some of their millions, into a possible run is considered a qualified candidate. To me, this is deeply disturbing.


When Oprah gave her speech at the Golden Globes two weeks ago, it would be an understatement to say that it was touching. She spoke to America’s many problems such as the racial divide, as well as how sadly relatable the #MeToo movement is. But she also spoke to hope, and to a better world, where no one has to tweet #MeToo, and it is no longer against the status quo for a person of color to receive an award that they rightly deserve. She spoke with a steadiness, clarity, and thoughtfulness that I wish graced the speeches of every American president. Yet despite how beautifully she spoke at the Golden Globes, I do not think that means she is qualified to run for office. There is a large gap between giving a speech that touches the heart of millions, and helping engender incredibly complex international deals that will impact people’s daily lives.


If Oprah were to run for president, the skeletons in her closet would undermine the kind and generous actions that she is known for. It is hard to think of a previous candidate that has run for said office without some sort of scandal, most recently including Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood Tape and Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Oprah is a fabulous TV personality, and rather than isolating people or polarizing them, she unites them with her philanthropy. You could argue that this makes her qualified to run for the presidency, but as a cynic, I would argue the opposite: a decent portion of our population would actually interpret all of her previous philanthropic work as ill charged. Oprah would have to announce political positions that are destined to isolate at least some portion of the population. Yes, some people might love her even more, but that is unlikely. The beauty of Oprah’s shows is that she can take a neutral approach on a difficult issue if need be. That is not a possibility when you are the president. It would be much harder to see Oprah as an amiable figure, which is something that comes with the office.


Should Oprah want to run for a local or state office, I would be much more willing to support her. Such a role would help her gain valuable experience for a future presidential run, if she still wanted the job. But, along with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Kanye, this trend of celebrities announcing presidential runs has got to stop. I do have to admit though, that while I insist upon this now, as pointed out by Mrs. Gomez-Goodnow: “You know if you had asked me that question a year ago, I would’ve said that’s absolutely crazy,” for anything can happen in a year. Who knows, maybe by the time 2020 campaigns role around, Oprah will be the most qualified candidate. We just have to wait and see.