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If you like Oprah Winfrey's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Benjamin Carson,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Ernest J. Gaines,
Bill Gates,
Whoopi Goldberg,
Lauryn Hill,
James Earl Jones,
Naomi Judd,
Frank M. Johnson,
Quincy Jones,
B.B. King,
John R. Lewis,
Jessye Norman,
Rosa Parks,
Sidney Poitier,
Colin Powell,
Desmond Tutu,
Martha Stewart,
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Andrew Young

Oprah Winfrey's
recommended reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Oprah Winfrey also appears in the video:
You Can Do Anything

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Oprah Winfrey in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Talent and Vision

Related Links:

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Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah Winfrey Interview (page: 5 / 8)

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  Oprah Winfrey

Tell us how you happened to first co-host a talk show, and how that felt.

Oprah Winfrey: I only came to co-host a talk show because I had failed at news and I was going to be fired. And, the news director was paying me $22,000 a year. God only knows what my co-anchor was making. Paying me $22,000 a year, and they thought they were paying me too much money to only just do news stories. So I had been taken off the six o'clock news, and was put on the early morning, like 5:30, cut-ins. And they tried to convince me at the time that, "You are so good that you need your own time period, so we are going to give you five minutes at 5:30 in the morning." I was devastated because up until that point, I had sort of cruised. I really hadn't thought a lot about my life, or the direction it was taking.

I just happened into television, happened into radio. I don't believe in luck. I think luck is preparation meeting opportunity. I felt like I had somewhat prepared myself, but that I had "happenstanced" into it.

I was working in Nashville, and so I moved to Baltimore, and I thought "Well, I'll do this for a while, and then I don't know what I'll do." So when I was called in and put on the edge of being fired and certainly demoted and knew that firing was only a couple weeks away. I was devastated. I was 22 and embarrassed by the whole thing because I had never failed before. And it was that failure that led to the talk show. Because they had no place else to put me, they put me on a talk show in the morning. And I'm telling you, the hour I interviewed -- my very first interview was the Carvel Ice Cream Man, and Benny from "All My Children" -- I'll never forget it. I came off the air, thinking, "This is what I should have been doing." Because it was like breathing to me, like breathing. You just talk. "Be yourself" is really what I had learned to do.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Your ability to get people in your audience to open up to you is astounding. To what do you attribute that?

Oprah Winfrey: My ability to get people to open up is only attributed, I think, to the fact that there is a common bond in the human spirit. We all want the same things. And I know that. I really do know that I am no different than anybody else.

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
One of my greatest struggles in life has been to recognize that I'm as worthy as the next guy. And I think the moment you start thinking that you are better than somebody else, you've lost sight of who you are. Because the truth of the matter is, we are all the same. And I know that. I really know that. And I think people sense that.

I'm telling you, I don't see myself certainly as a celebrity, as a star, because people are so familiar with me. It's not like with other celebrities. I've seen how people react to other people, and it's not like it is to me. Basically, people say "Hey, Oprah, come on over here and sit down." Everyday, at the end of the show, they say, "Want to go to lunch, want to come to my house? I'm fixing so and so for dinner."

If I am sitting at a restaurant, people come up to me, sit down, bring their children -- it's just very familiar. And I think the reason people open up so much on the show is because I open up. I feel comfortable doing it. And they know that I am not going to ridicule them. I want everybody on the show, even if I disagree with them, to leave with a sense of dignity, to maintain their own dignity.

A lot of people, like critics for instance, don't get it. There are some people who criticize the show. Now, I take criticism very seriously. I can't say that I'm one of those people who does not read criticism because I do. And if someone criticizes something, and it strikes a nerve with me, I will then move to correct it. I have written to critics who said things that I thought were very valid.

Recently, someone criticized us for airing a show on mothers who had gone through postpartum depression and had killed their children. They were saying that the show should not have aired in the afternoon because of other children watching. I absolutely agree with that. That's a very valid point. We should have considered that. That's one of the things I did not think about. I'm thinking that I'm going to help all these mothers who are going through this, but that person was absolutely right. So if the criticism is valid and comes from a point of view of being well thought out, and not just to attack, I accept it. I accept it and I usually get better as a result of it. Critics have actually helped me to get better.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

So you are able to deal with criticism fairly well?

Oprah Winfrey: If it's the truth. Of all things I would say I'm a truth-seeker. I believe that, "The truth shall make you free." I absolutely believe that. So if you are telling me the truth, I accept it and will move on it. The thing that has caused me the greatest dismay or disappointment in this life has been the fact that people can write things about you that are not true. It's astounding to me. It's astounding. And I don't want to sound like one of those people who is in the public complaining about it. But it is just astounding to me that it can happen. And had it not happened to me, I would not believe somebody else complaining about it. I'd say, "Well some of it has to be true." And that is really my only gripe about being who I am right now. That people can say things and print them, and they are not true. That you can just sit up and make up stories. It goes against everything I believe in, because I really don't care what you print about me if it's true.

You obviously are in the public eye in a way that most people cannot relate to. How have you adjusted to that? To the fact that when Oprah sneezes, it's usually printed in People magazine, or whatever.

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
Oprah Winfrey: I don't know about sneezing, but if she eats a piece of bacon! I think I've adjusted pretty well. I think I'm probably one of the most balanced people I know, to live under such a microscope like this. And I think that you have to put it all in perspective and understand who you really are. And who I really am is not some person who is just on television everyday. That is something that I do. I think it's important for people not to look at my life, or anybody else's life, particularly celebrities because I think adoration is unhealthy.

When you look at the list of people that students choose to admire in this country, I think that there are so many people who do such incredible things. Incredible things. Last year I met the guy who split the neutrons in two. And they do things, and you think "My God!" They do things to atoms that you can't even pronounce. And I think, "Well, you know, wouldn't it be wonderful if those kinds of people got publicity? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we paid attention to some of the more humanitarian things that are going on, things that are really of value?" I think just because you can do a video, or you can dance really well, or you can sit on a talk show and you can talk to people, that is not necessarily to be held in the highest of esteem, because that isn't what makes life meaningful. It really is not.

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