Oprah is evidence: Speaking truth is powerful

Published 12:21 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Love Oprah or hate Oprah, you can’t ignore Oprah. The fact that you only have to say her first name and people know who your are talking about pretty much proves she is a force in our culture. No one ever asks, “Oprah who?”

It’s kind of like the name Trump without the need to explain the stability or like, “smartness,” associated with the name. (OK that’s my one tiny political comment on what’s going on in our current administration. I will refrain from more references to the “T” word in this column.)

Ms. Winfrey was the trending tweet on Twitter, the headline in the news world and captured the “share” option on Facebook after her appearance at The Golden Globes Sunday evening. Proof again that when Oprah speaks people listen, even those who do not particularly like her.

She was in attendance to accept the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. That is a pretty big deal in the entertainment world.

As she often does, Oprah used this public opportunity to do more than say thank you for another award. I think she probably has a room full of awards by this stage in her life. (She did a little thanking, but that wasn’t her main topic).

No, she chose to use her platform to talk about something whispered about for a long time, the abuse of power. Her focus was particularly on the abuse of women by people (men) in positions of power. Unless you live in a cave, you know that topic was in the news as 2017 came to its end.

As I said, whether you like her, don’t like her, agree or disagree with her, Oprah gets peoples’ attention. She got mine Sunday night. You must admit she is a powerful speaker.

I thought what she said was important, but it was one line that caught my attention and stayed with me. She said it as she spoke about the importance of the press and the value of having a press that holds those in power accountable.

The line was “…what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

I heard myself whispering amen when she said those words. In yoga, we call it standing in your truth and it is a most powerful tool.

Let me stop here and insert one bit of caution. Yes, speaking “your” truth is important. However, if the truth that applies for you is about your religious belief, or political affliation, or chosen football team or what barbecue sauce is superior, it is valid to speak your truth on those subjects. It is not cool to expect everyone’s truth to mirror yours.

What I know for sure this moment is that speaking your truth can sometimes feel frightening if it doesn’t agree with the truth that the majority of folks around you are speaking. I’m afraid that’s the place we find ourselves in right now.

So, if I gave a speech that got attention on an Oprah level, I’d suggest we not only speak our truth, but also find space for honoring each other’s truth. And more importantly, for understanding that how we listen to each other matters too.

I know Oprah’s comments were more directly about the way some men abuse their power over others, but there was another message, too. It was one not just for the girls, but also for everyone.

What I heard as I listened to a woman who rose from poverty and a challenging childhood to become Oprah, a name often celebrated, sometimes loathed, but seldom ignored, was a call to everyone listening to find your truth. Then to claim that truth and to be courageous enough to speak that truth when life calls you to do so.

You may not like her or you may love her, but you certainly can’t dismiss Oprah. And that, I think, proves how powerful a tool it is to speak your truth.





Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.