The American Dream - How Oprah Winfrey is a Textbook Example

The American Dream - How Oprah Winfrey is a Textbook Example

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. This was said by James Truslow Adams in 1931. He was the first person who used the term American Dream. The idea of the American Dream started in the United States Declaration of Independence. It said: “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

During the last decade a very large number of immigrants came to the United States of America to get a better life. Their pursuit of happiness is also known as the pursuit of the American Dream. Many of those people sacrificed everything to start a new life is America. They left their family, friend and jobs to pursue this ‘dream’. At that time many of their dreams consisted of owning a piece of land and establishing prosperous businesses which would generate happiness. Some only wanted religious freedom.

Nowadays the American Dream can be used in many ways. Everyone has their own idea of the American Dream and the way of pursuing it. Some people may suggest that the American Dream can be succeed through hard work, and that the American Dream can be succeed by everyone. All people have the potential to live a happy and successful life. Some people have already reached their own American Dream. They are happily married with children and earn enough money to live a happy and careless life. Other people would describe this dream as being rich and famous. Or some would describe it as; personal freedom, that they are not being discriminated based of their religion, race, national origin or gender.

Everyone has their own interpretation of the American Dream. Whether it is being successful in finding a job, being able to get the highest level of education or to have a happy and healthy family. Everybody is trying to reach their own American Dream.

What is the best example of the American Dream? The life of Oprah Winfrey is the perfect textbook example of the American Dream. An poor African- American women born in Mississippi became the most influent women of America and was once world’s only black billionaire .

It all started 57 years ago. January 29, 1954 Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her parents were unmarried teenagers who broke up not long after she was born. Her mother was a housemaid named Vernita Lee and her father, Vernon Winfrey, was a soldier. Oprah Winfrey was named after “Orpah” the Biblical character in the Book of Ruth only her friends and family couldn’t pronounce it and called her Oprah instead. Oprah spent her first six years at her grandmother Hattie Mae Lee (1900). Oprah was living in rural poverty with her grandmother.

When Oprah was 6 years old she moved back to her Mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother was by far not as encouraging and supportive as her grandmother had been. When Oprah moved back, her mother gave birth to Oprah’s younger half- sister, Patricia. Who later died of a cocaine addiction. When Vernita Lee was having problems raising both girls she sent Oprah to her father in Nashville, Tennessee. While Winfrey was at her dad’s, her mother gave birth to her second half-sister also named Patricia who she gave up for adoption. Oprah didn’t know this until 2010. When Oprah moved back to her mother’s she also given birth to Oprah’s half-brother Jeffrey. Jeffrey died young of the causes of AIDS.

Oprah was sexually abused by her relatives and friends of the family. She revealed this in one of her episodes in 1986. Not difficult to understand that she became a troubled teenager and pregnant at age 14 of a baby boy who sadly was born to early which caused his death.

Winfrey went to Lincoln High School but later she transferred to Nicolet High School. Her poverty was constantly rubbed in her face by fellow Afro-Americans. She stole money from her mother to keep up with her classmates. Her mother was so frustrated that she sent Oprah to live with her father Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was strict but encouraging and made sure she went to school every day. Her grades went up and once became Most Popular Girl at East Nashville High School.

She got a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she studied communication. When she was 17 she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. This event attracted the attention of a local black radio station. They hired Oprah to do the news broadcast. And so she did. She worked there during high school and also her first two years of college.

This was the first step of Oprah’s glorious media career. Nashville’s WLAC-TV got her attention and Oprah became their first African-American female news anchor and also their youngest. In 1976 she moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to co-anchor the six o’clock news. On August 14, 1978 she was the co-host next to Richard Sher of WJZ’s talk show People Are Talking. In the same period she also hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars also at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV. But her bosses noticed she had a problem distancing herself from stories; she would laugh during interviews and cry at sad events. This was her weakness they said, but this weakness could be a strength as a host. And so she moved to the breakfast show on AM Chicago. The first episode was in 1984 and within months Oprah took the show to the next level. First it was a low ranking talk show but Oprah had made the show the highest ranking talk show in Chicago. Two years later in 1986 Oprah went national with her own talk show; The Oprah Winfrey Show.

It was a instant hit. Journalists all over the country were very enthusiastic.
First was The Oprah Winfrey Show marked as a tabloid talk show. But in the mid 1990s Oprah started hosting shows on much broader topics. She discussed thinks that weren’t discussed in other talk shows. She spoke about topics such as spirituality, heart disease and meditation. She also interviewed celebrities on social issues what they faced in their private lives such as charity work, abuse or cancer.

Oprahs talk show is now broadcasted international in 140 countries and she pronounced that her final show is scheduled to air in September 2011. Oprah Winfrey is president of Harpo Productions. Her media network. Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards. Founded in 1986. She also has two magazines; O, The Oprah Magazine and O, At Home. And her well read website


Oprah Winfrey has a big influence in many ways. Oprah was called "arguably the world's most powerful woman" by CNN and and was called "arguably the most influential woman in the world" by the American Spectator. President Barack Obama has said she "may be the most influential woman in the country". These titles are big especially for a African American women. In 2010 Oprah was named by Life magazine “one of the 100 people who changed the world”. Oprah Winfrey was the only living women to make the list. On that same list were names such as Jesus Christ, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Elvis Presley.
Forbes’ international rich list has listed Oprah as the world’s only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and she was the first African American billionaire in world history. According to Forbes, Winfrey was worth 2.7 billion dollars in September 2010. Oprah became a millionaire at age 32 when her talk show went national. And now her yearly income has increased to 275 million dollars.

The Wall Street Journal invented the term “Oprahfication”. What they mean by “Oprahfication” is that Oprah uses her own problems such as sexual abuse and her weight issues as a kind of therapy. She talks about in her show and she’s confessing her problems to her viewers. That means if Oprah can talk about it, so can I. Winfrey is blending public and private in her shows. She talks about things that other talk shows don’t. She makes people care because she cares. And that is the great strength about Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah is also committed to make gay, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender people socially accepted in this world. During a show in 1980s, members of the studio audience stood up one by one and pronounced that they were gay. This in celebration of National Coming Out Day. In the past gay, bisexual and transgendered people had almost no presence on television. Through shows like Oprahs people outside the sexual mainstream, like gay people, now appear in living rooms across the country almost every day of the week. Oprah has done over a 120 shows about gay sexuality and openly receives gay celebrities on her show. Because when Oprah excepts it, the hole world excepts it.

Also Winfrey introduced the “Oprah Book Club”. The intension of Oprah’s book club was that new books and classics were brought to the intention of her viewers. The book club became such a powerful thing that whenever Winfrey introduced a new book as her book-club selection, it instantly became a best-seller. When you are recognized by Oprah it often means a million additional book sales for your book. With this book club she motivated millions of non-readers to pick up a book and read. Oprah’s book club changed America.
Phil McGraw is also a creation of Oprah. He appeared regularly on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” before launching his own show “Dr. Phil”. All these examples can be described as “The Oprah Effect”, the power of Oprah’s opinions and endorsement to influence public opinion and then especially consumers buying choices.

In 2008 Winfrey tested the power of “The Oprah Effect” in politics. She endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama in the presidential election. This was the first time she made such a publicly endorsement. Winfrey joined Obama for some rallies in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. On September 8, 2007 she even held a fundraiser for Obama at her Santa Barbara estate. When she was at an event in Colombia, South Carolina with Obama, there were over 30.000 people to support them. This was the largest number of people for any political event of 2007. Two economists at the University of Maryland, College Park estimated that Oprah’s accompanying assessment was responsible for between 423.123 and 1.596.995 votes for Obama. Oprah was responsible for the difference in the popular vote between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” has an estimated 7.3 million viewers a day, it is the highest rated talk show in America, the show is airing in 140 countries internationally and is seen by 46 million people in the United States weekly

So why is Oprah Winfrey the textbook example of the American Dream? A little black girl born in Mississippi who grew up to become America’s most powerful women. A poor girl who grew up with her grandmother, who had a bad childhood but has done everything to become a successful media women and who succeeded. She used her strength as a talk show host to make America care about her and what’s important in live. She touched America because she also cares about her viewers and the less fortuned. She helps the people who are not being heard. She talks about topics that are normally avoided. And people who are different, are normal to Oprah. Oprah Winfrey does really care about the people of America and about the people of the world. She is living the life of the rich and famous but uses her money for good purposes. She is a women of the world and will be until she dies.

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.
- Oprah Winfrey