Friday, May 27, 2011

OK, I Admit it - I Got Suckered In...

Ok, I'll admit I got suckered in...

I've recorded 'Oprah' every day for years. I hardly ever actually watch it, unless there's a guess or a subject I want to see. But don't get me wrong, I've always liked and admired her show. She's touched countless lives and when you separate the mania of her fans from her capacity to actually do good, she's a pretty amazing woman whose figured out that celebrity is an instrument to be used and not a commodity to possess.

So, yes, I was suckered in. Knowing that her last three shows were going to be an 'emote fest', I recorded and finally watched back to back her final three shows and shed a few tears like everyone else at this segment...



What made this so powerful was that I had just heard a day or so ago, that 'not everyone is college material' phrase. When I saw this segment it reminded me that many of these 400 or so men, or of the 65,000 that she's helped get to and through college would have been an argument for the 'not everyone is a college material' proposition. Had it not been for Oprah...

On this past Saturday, we had a gathering to celebrate CitySquare's education programs at Roseland Homes and Turner Courts, public housing development and it's end. At least for now. Young men and young women got up, one after another, and gave witness to CitySquare's influence and almost to a person, told the college or university from which they had graduated, the degree they earned and about half of them the graduate degree they were pursuing. Some had grown up in public housing. Most had grown up poor. Almost all had less than desirable family dynamics and upbringing. But CitySquare and our former program director (now Community Life Director at CityWalk@Akard), Dr. Janet Morrison, had intervened. Not with money, but with time and encouragement. The intervention was often in the form of direction in counseling both in helping to navigate turbulent times in college and in everyday life. Without that intervention many of them...most of them, if not all, might have been deemed 'not college material'.

A person, some people interjected themselves in the lives of these young people and rescued them from a category that may have left their lives and their futures unfulfilled. For a large group of young men at Morehouse it was Oprah, for a smaller group in public housing complexes in south and east Dallas it was CitySquare and Janet Morrison. For many others, there are mentors, patrons, families and friends. But far too few get slotted in the 'not college ready' category without really having a chance. We must do better. If too many fall needlessly into that category, not only will their quality of life be diminished - so will all of ours.

So, if Oprah seems a little to self congratulatory. Or if the farewell has gone on a little too long. Or if the laurels by friends and fans seem hyperbolic. I think its because, like it or not, she's used her celebrity to be more than a 'star'. She's made an effort to leverage here fame and her fortune to help others.

Maybe the greatest take-away from her 25 years is that we ought not settle for the grim prophecies and projections about our future. Maybe we should learn that all of us can do something to help others achieve a place where they can use the resource of their lives to be a blessing to others. Maybe that's kind of nation we should have. Maybe that's an obligation we have to one another as fellow citizens and human beings.

While Oprah's show could be a little annoying at times (ok, for some of us maybe more than a 'little' annoying) and her fan base too worshipful, 25 years doing anything is nothing to sneeze at. Especially when you mix in a commitment to making life better for others. That's actually quite a legacy...

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