On that day, after a quarter century of unparalleled excellence and out-of-this-world success, Oprah is closing down "The Oprah Winfrey Show," TV's top-rated talk show year after year after year.
Hers is a truly remarkable and thoroughly American story, a story of triumph and grace that really belongs to the whole world, especially the children growing up in hard and poor places like
She didn't inherit a penny. She earned everything she has. Some people born on third base think they hit a triple. Oprah spent much of her young life ducking wild pitches and unfair umpires. But in the best tradition of
Oprah was born in
That's when and where she and I first crossed paths, although she had to remind me of it many years later. I was speaking at the university. Oprah was in the audience. She said what impressed her most about what I said was a bit of wisdom I shared with the students from my grandmother: the strongest weapon against bigotry is excellence.
It was at
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" is the highest rated TV talk show in history, drawing 49 million viewers each week in the U.S., and broadcast in 122 countries worldwide. Across the country and the world, people welcome Oprah into their homes each day.
She is their sister, their best girlfriend, their guide to a better way of living and loving. Few have done more to break down racial divides.
With her wit and humanity, she spoke across regional and racial and religious barriers. In this last year of shows, she returned to Forsyth Country, Ga., where black people had previously been chased out of town by rock throwing mobs. She didn't return alone. A guy who called her "the N word'' on her first visit several years ago joined her for the tour of memory and reconciliation.
Oprah always pushed boundaries. She did path-breaking work introducing Middle America to the plague of AIDS, helping people move beyond their fears. She became a champion of abused children across the world, her testimony helping to pass the National Child Protection Act.
Her influence takes many forms. She helped turn Americans onto reading good novels, even putting "Anna Karenina" on the best-seller list. She shared her own battles with weight and her struggles with relationships.
When she endorsed the far less known junior senator from
Along the way, she became the wealthiest African-American in the 20th century, the first black billionaire and the greatest African-American philanthropist ever.
In my life and time, work and travel, I've met people at all levels and in all spheres of life. I found none like Oprah. I'm blessed to know her. We are all.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
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