“For the first time, I'm stepping out of my pew because I've been inspired,” Oprah Winfrey recently told an audience of almost 30,000 who had just given the talk-show host a resounding cheer.
It sounded like a college homecoming, appropriately so because the crowd was gathered at William Bryce Football Stadium where the University of South Carolina plays its games.
Oprah’s speech was consistent with the themes that she has focused on over the years on her television show.
As an NBC reporter wrote, “Oprah's message was one of personal empowerment, similar to the stories she tells on her show every day, telling the crowd that asking Obama to wait to run was the same as someone telling someone that they should wait to try and better their lives.”
At one point Winfrey invoked the dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I've been inspired to believe that a new vision is possible for America,” she told the crowd. “Dr. King dreamed the dream. But we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. We get to vote that dream into reality.”
The Obama campaign indicated that 18 percent of the first 8,500 people who showed up at the event wanted to become volunteers. 68 percent of those who obtained their tickets online had never been contacted by the campaign before.
Meanwhile a fresh MSNBC/Mason-Dixon poll put Clinton’s South Carolina lead over Obama at only three points.
“I got some sense, I know the difference between a book club and this seminal moment in our history,” Oprah announced.
A celebrity of Oprah’s stature is able to create a seminal moment, and this is one for the history books.
It turns out that Obama has another celebrity admirer — Will Smith.
As I reported a while back in a previous column, Smith revealed a secret ambition to someday become president of the United States.
While out promoting his upcoming film “I Am Legend,” Smith said in an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, “I always wanted to be the first black president but Barack Obama stole my idea.”
The actor even expressed some policy ideas for his campaign. He said he would start with universal healthcare and shelter, indicating that he could not “see that happening under Bush. Too many bad things have happened under his presidency.”
Still, Smith distinguished himself from the Bush-hating fringe, saying, “I don't believe he is an evil man, I just think he has an unevolved perspective. It's a good thing he's served his time. Now it's time for Barack Obama.”
Smith has contributed some campaign cash and appeared in a video extolling the qualities of the Illinois senator and presidential candidate, but his support of the Obama campaign has been overshadowed by Oprah.
Evidently, Smith has no animus for Obama for attempting to take the same job that he himself had aspired to.
“That's OK with me,” Smith explained. “Barack can go first and then I'll take my turn.”
James Hirsen is a media analyst, Trinity Law School professor and teacher of mass media law at Biola University.
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