There are rare times when we have what might be called an “Ah, ha” moment… a moment when clarity magnificently triumphs over what might otherwise be an “OK” slice of life. Such was my “Ah, ha” moment while absentmindedly listening to the recent Golden Globes award presentation and paying the monthly bills.
As former TV hostess Oprah Winfrey began to speak after a tribute to her many accomplishments, her rich philanthropy and her good deeds, I was mesmerized by her eloquent words in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award. This award recognizes “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment” and was first awarded to legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille in 1952, followed by such entertainment icons as Walt Disney, Judy Garland and Sidney Poitier.
Oprah had little to say in actual appreciation of the award itself, much to render regarding the “Me Too” movement and sexual harassment in the workplace, specifically the Hollywood arena. Her graceful presentation and clear, forceful wording represented not just a political statement on the part of working women everywhere but a carefully crafted insight into the plight of minorities throughout the world and what meaningful stories can say to those who live without hope.
Recalling the DeMille Award being presented to the first black man, Sidney Poitier, in 1964, she said: “I’ve tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses.” The thrill of hope for a better day made a difference in a child. That’s an “Ah, ha” moment because it reminds us that our actions today can and do have an effect, for better or worse, on a young person who observes our actions and heeds our words. What we say, what we do, does matter, often long afterward. And if we positively affect a young person, that young person may later positively affect another young person.
Oprah went on to expand her vision of hope in the modern-day challenge to the wrongs of the powerful by those formerly deemed defenseless: “It’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace.” Ah, another “Ah, ha” moment! The potential for bad actions are universal — as is our ability to correct the bad. We can do so through a true story and by punctuating it all: “Enough!”
Whether one likes Oprah Winfrey or not, whether she is worthy of the White House or not (and just the other day she said she doesn’t have the DNA for the presidency), what she said during the Golden Globes presentation suggests something each of us should aspire to do… “to say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome.” How simple it might be to give hope to another by telling our own story, our own tale of overcoming the odds.
For me, the real “Ah, ha” is that whether we discuss the battle of the sexes, the Holocaust, modern-day slavery or dehumanization or discrimination in any form, we often learn from the true stories of others. We recognize that power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely — and that we have the opportunity to right wrongs here and now and also for the future.
From the children of housekeepers to the innocent around the globe, truth, experience, kindness and humanity not only give elements of hope to the forlorn but also plant seeds of hope for future generations. As Oprah asserted: “the one quality all . . . seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”
What a magnificent ray of clarity from a televised entertainment awards show too often concerned with self-aggrandizement. From the far reaches of the rich and famous comes a manifesto of hope for the poor and the anonymous. And that may be the most powerful “Ah, ha” we need to face the bracing but potentially vibrant mornings of 2018.