Oprah Winfrey is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Awards and accolades are not new to renowned talk show host and humanitarian, Oprah Winfrey. The Presidential Medal of Freedom however, will always be a special kind of award, since it was bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama. Awarded annually to “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to culture or other significant public or private endeavors” as per a statement released by the White House, the award was started 50 years ago by then-President, John.F.Kennedy. Over 500 individuals from diverse backgrounds have been honored for their various contributions towards the development of the country since then. Oprah Winfrey’s name is synonymous with using television media in order to encourage dialogue on taboo issues. The Oprah Winfrey Show ran for 25 years and an equal number of seasons, during which Winfrey highlighted issues ranging from racial abuse to childhood molestation and even health and fitness concerns. She struck a delicate balance between being a chatty talk show host with the latest updates on fashion and entertainment, and the sensitive and empathetic journalist who often spoke of her own abuse-riddled childhood in order to drive home uncomfortable realities pertaining to molestation and incest.
Praising Winfrey for her journalistic excellence, Obama stated that he too was asked to change his name, as was Oprah during the initial stages of her career. Both, incidentally, declined to do so and are currently among the most powerful African American figures in the world. Lauding Winfrey in the warmest terms for serving as “living proof” of how healing from childhood abuse and growing to becoming “the pinnacle of the entertainment universe”, Obama highlighted some of Oprah’s professional achievements and her consistently generous donations to charity while also bringing up the fact that she never forgot her roots in Africa. Oprah’s school in Johannesburg is not only an educational facility for girls, but also serves as a refuge for those who belong to violence-ridden areas. Within the United States, she has started a number of campaigns which encourage the public to donate towards relief efforts after natural disasters, and has actively participated in events and campaigns pertaining to abuse prevention and ending animal cruelty.
Oprah’s personal and professional journey serve as an inspiration to women, especially women from lower income backgrounds, who will note that Winfrey herself grew up in a small village with no money and no external connections to boost her ambitions. A self-taught orator who turned a struggling television talk show around, only to beat the then-reigning host, with high ratings, Winfrey is an inspiration on many levels. She is a fighter, a survivor who refuses to dwell in her past, a pioneer who gave the term educational television viewing a completely different meaning, a philanthropist whose generous donations have changed lives, and above all a completely natural woman who embraces positive body image and life with all its struggles.