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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Mike Bates
Bio: Mike Bates
Date:  November 2, 2007
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Oprah finds answers aren't so simple

Oprah Winfrey's heart was in the right place. She used a significant portion of her abundant wealth to start the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa earlier this year.

Oprah Winfrey's heart was in the right place. She used a significant portion of her abundant wealth to start the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa earlier this year.

The $40 million facility would give about 150 students from disadvantaged families a quality education and, ultimately, a better life. Unpretentious as always, Ms. Winfrey expressed the hope her academy will help change the face of a nation.

Oprah is as big an alarmist on the topic of AIDS as Al Gore is on global warming. So she identified another reason for establishing the school: "Girls who are educated are less likely to get HIV/AIDS, and in this country which has such a pandemic, we have to begin to change the pandemic."

Whether or not her assumptions on changing South Africa and reducing HIV/AIDS are true, Ms. Winfrey was trying to help. When targeted for criticism by those who thought she should have set up the academy in her own country, her response was starkly direct. "If you ask the kids (in our inner-city schools) what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers," she told Newsweek. "In South Africa, they . . . ask for (school) uniforms."

It's sad to see that less than a year after the academy's auspicious opening, Oprah's had to return because of a scandal involving the treatment of students. South African news sources report allegations that a dormitory matron sexually fondled one girl and assaulted another. One student ran away from the school because of abuse. Moreover, the principal's been placed on leave while an investigation is conducted.

When Oprah returned to her leadership academy, she experienced an Oprah moment. People, authoritative in such matters, tells readers that a tearful Winfrey "begged for forgiveness" Sunday. "I've disappointed you. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," she confessed to parents.

It's fitting for Ms. Winfrey to be sorry for the scandal, but I don't see how she's disappointed anyone. Understandably, she wasn't there on a day to day basis overseeing everything that happens on the campus she munificently endowed.

Humans are complex creatures. We can't always be certain what another person will do in any given set of circumstances. We're all different in so many ways and that's one reason there are fewer clear cut answers in life than many of us would prefer.

Ms. Winfrey's style and popularity are based on representing matters with an exceptionally simplistic perspective. She could issue degrees in advanced victimology. Routinely bashing men played a major role earlier in her career. Focusing on cheaters, wife beaters, perverts, guys who won't support their own children, and other miscreants much of the time made it appear that women are victims and many, if not most, men are creeps.

In the mid-90s Oprah revealed to her adoring audience that in her 20s she smoked crack cocaine. But see, it wasn't really her fault. And crack cocaine wasn't the trouble, because "I always felt that the drug itself is not the problem but that I was addicted to the man. I can't think of anything I wouldn't have done for that man."

Maybe it was the same male she mentioned a few weeks ago. Again in her 20s, she had an affair with a married man. Once more, Oprah was the victim, believing his lies about his wife and finding "it (the other woman) is such a powerless position to be in."

Other victims she sees are people earning low wages. The solution: Demand the government establish a "living wage." Oprah gives no thought to the people who will be thrown out of a job because the skills they bring to it aren't worth a higher salary to an employer. She may believe in the right to choose abortion, but she doesn't believe in the right to choose the conditions under which a person works.

In September, Ms. Winfrey invited leftwing sicko Michael Moore and media pinup boy Steve "What's wrong with America and what will you do to change it so somebody will pay for my wife's health insurance?" Skvara on her show. As usual, the program was flawlessly balanced. "Should healthcare be a right or a luxury?", asked Oprah on the show, oblivious to the observable truth that most things in life fall somewhere in between. It's not always an either/or situation. And if someone has a right to something of value, who decides who has to pay for that something of value?

But that's what Oprah does. She views things in black and white, takes the atypical and implies it's typical, and recommends unworkable solutions.

She should know better. As mentioned in this space last year, Oprah pledged a great deal of money in the 90s to help 100 public housing families get off of welfare. Two years and more than a million dollars half of it from Ms. Winfrey later, only three families succeeded in leaving public housing.

Now she thinks she's disappointed disadvantaged girls and their families after doing her best to improve their lives. She gave the girls her personal phone number and email address, but even that doesn't seem enough.

Perhaps Ms. Winfrey would do well to recognize that, even with her incredible wealth, she can't change human nature. She can't control everything and everyone. And being the national therapist isn't much help when you're the one who's heartsick.

Mike Bates

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Notes:  This Michael Bates column appeared in the November 1, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.

Biography - Mike Bates

Mike Bates wrote a weekly column of opinion - or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint - for over 20 years. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg's program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore's WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal's Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of "Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths." In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column


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