Oprah: Role Model, Power Player, Avatar of Optimism…2020 President?

“With a booming speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey, the billionaire media entrepreneur and former television talk-show host, launched a thousand fantasies for Democrats: Of a historic campaign to put a black woman in the White House. Of a celebrity candidate, known for her big-hearted optimism, taking on a reality-show president defined by his thirst for combat. Of a presidency, some joked, where everybody would get a car.”    A. Burns and A. Chozick

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Oprah at 2018 Globes Awards. Photo- NY Daily News

Excerpt: Oprah 2020? Democrats Swing From Giddy to Skeptical at the Prospect -By A. Burns and A. Chozick, The New York Times

“Ms. Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, stoked the mood in a newspaper interview, suggesting to The Los Angeles Times that she would ‘absolutely do it’ — with the caveat that such matters are ‘up to the people.’  There was no more official signal on Monday from Ms. Winfrey, 63, as to her interest in the presidency. She has disavowed any ambition to be a candidate in the past, though she has told associates in recent months that she wants to play a part in bringing the country together, two people briefed on her thinking said.

Oprah to Colbert- I am never running for political office (2017).Photo- The Daily Beast

If Ms. Winfrey’s ambitions are unclear, the sometimes giddy reaction to her speech at a Hollywood awards dinner underscored the unfulfilled hunger among Democrats for a larger-than-life leader to challenge President Trump.

With no obvious front-runner for the 2020 campaign, Democrats appear likely to spend the next few years grinding through internal disagreements over policy and identity in a long contest for the nomination…In the imagination of some Democrats, Ms. Winfrey might offer an easy way out of those problems… She has cast herself in American culture as an avatar of optimism, not defined in ideological terms.

Oprah greets her fans at her home base in Chicago. Photo: Chicago Tribune

David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for Barack Obama, said Ms. Winfrey was a figure of unique political potential, with ‘a boundless capacity for empathy and a preternatural ability to communicate powerfully and authentically — as we saw at the Golden Globes.’ Mr. Axelrod questioned, however, whether Ms. Winfrey would be the right fit for 2020: ‘Would she want to submit herself to the unforgiving, relentless and sometimes absurd process of running for president?’ he wondered, adding: ‘Will there be hunger in 2020 for someone with some experience in government, after Trump?’

Ms. Winfrey has been named a ‘special contributor’ to CBS News program ’60 Minutes,’ CBS announced. The program begins on Jan. 31, 2018.

Some Democrats expressed skepticism and even frustration about the swirl of fascination with Ms. Winfrey, arguing that the party was jumping the gun with fevered speculation about 2020.

Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a young liberal in the chamber, wrote tersely on Twitter: ‘Hey. Let’s focus on winning in 2018. Thanks.’

Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist from the party’s progressive wing, said it would be a mistake for Democrats to rush toward a magnetic personality rather than hashing out a compelling agenda for the midterm elections and beyond.  ‘Beating Trump isn’t just about finding the right candidate — we have to show what we stand for,’ Ms. Katz said. ‘Other than ‘we all get a car,’ what will an Oprah presidency look like?’ 

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, suggested — with a dose of skepticism — that Ms. Winfrey was the kind of political outsider Democrats might embrace.  Alluding to Mr. Trump’s lack of experience, Ms. Pelosi tartly told a small group of reporters that Ms. Winfrey had other qualities going for her: ‘Oprah has read books. She knows how to identify talent.’

Oprah greets her many fans at the Sydney Opera House December 2010. Photo-abc.net

Ms. Winfrey’s commercial reach transcends race and income level, analysts say, propelling so many books and products to overnight success that it has earned its own sobriquet: ‘The Oprah Effect.’

Ms. Winfrey has recently taken on political topics as a special correspondent for CBS News’s ’60 Minutes,’ including a segment on the country’s political divisions and another on the use of solitary confinement in prisons.

But even to close friends and admirers, the prospect of an Oprah 2020 race appeared far-fetched or impossible as recently as last year. After Mr. Trump’s inauguration, when the traditional barriers to entry into presidential politics appeared to melt away, Ms. Winfrey’s associates dismissed the idea.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  Oprah Winfrey.  Next, have students look at the photos in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Review as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming Map by rentonschools.us

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Ms. Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, stoked the mood in a newspaper interview.
  2. She has disavowed any ambition to be a candidate in the past.
  3. Ms. Winfrey’s ambitions are unclear.
  4. There is no obvious front-runner for the 2020 campaign.
  5. There are thorny disagreements  within the party.
  6. She inspires crucial groups for the party.
  7. Ms. Winfrey has cast herself in American culture as an avatar of optimism.
  8. She represents in some ways a natural counterpoint to Trump’s proud pugilism.
  9. Ms. Winfrey is a figure of unique political potential, with a boundless capacity for empathy.
  10. Some Democrats expressed skepticism.

Word Map by Against the Odds


Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

There was no official signal___ Monday from Ms. Winfrey.

___the imagination___ some Democrats, Ms. Winfrey might offer solutions.

Senior Democrats___ Washington said___ Monday they had received no signal ___Ms. Winfrey that she hoped___ seek the White House.

Ms. Winfrey’s sudden prominence___ the nation’s political imagination speaks,___ some respects,___ the merging___politics and entertainment___ the American mind.

Reading Comprehension

Sentence Match

Directions: Students  are to complete the sentences from the article by selecting the correct words or phrases from list a-j.


  1. Ms. Winfrey’s commercial reach transcends ___
  2. Oprah has read ___
  3. Ms. Winfrey’s most potent appeal, industry analysts say, is among somewhat ___
  4. By Monday afternoon, the White House had responded to ___
  5. In 2007, she intervened for Mr. Obama, holding rallies for him and___.
  6. In 2013, she hosted a fund-raising event for Cory Booker, in his first bid for ___
  7. Less certain is whether Ms. Winfrey could navigate the ideological pitfalls of ___.
  8. But even to close friends and admirers, the prospect of an Oprah 2020 race___.


a- appeared far-fetched.

b- Senate in New Jersey.

c-a presidential campaign.

d-race and income level.

e-hailing him as “the one”.


g-the threat of Oprah in 2020.

h-older consumers.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Group Debates

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list five reasons for choosing Oprah Winfrey as a presidential candidate in 2020.

Team B will list  five reasons against choosing Oprah Winfrey as a presidential candidate in 2020.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology



Have students read and listen to Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes Speech JAN. 7, 2018, 

“Oprah Winfrey accepted the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement with a rousing acceptance speech that began as a personal reflection and ended as a call to arms. Here is a full transcript of Ms. Winfrey’s speech.”  Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times


Category: Political Issues