Barbara Sharp: Oprah is role model and great philanthropist
To the editor:
I take issue with the Gazette’s Aug. 16 editorial, “Oprah Winfrey’s lost-in-translation moment.” In it, the writer refers to Oprah’s recent experience in a Zurich boutique, where she asked to see a crocodile handbag for sale and was not allowed to see it because the salesperson said she could not afford it. The writer mocks Oprah’s billionaire status and says that “the real insult ... is to the crocodile.” A handbag for $38,000 is indeed an outrageous thing. But Oprah has been doing outrageous things her entire life.
Born in rural Mississippi, she struggled with abuse and poverty from an early age. Despite this, through her hard work and natural talents, she became the richest African-American of the 20th century. She is also the greatest African-American philanthropist in U.S. history. Her Angel Network provides grants to nonprofit organizations worldwide. She personally gave $10 million for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. She established a school in South Africa, spending more than $40 million of her own money. She once took her entire television show staff — more than 1,000 people, plus their families — on a vacation to Hawaii.
Yes, Oprah is — as the writer states — “in the one percent of the one percent.” She got there through no one’s efforts but her own, and in the face of obstacles that would overwhelm and defeat the average person. She should be seen as a role model, not as an object of derision.
A store is, by its very definition, a public marketplace offering goods for sale. Oprah entered that Zurich boutique as a customer and asked to see something that was for sale. She was denied. That is simply wrong — whether the customer is Oprah, or you, or me.