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The Path

It Wasn't About #Oprah2020

Years ago, when Lynn was doing a lot of public speaking, she'd give inspiring, fact-filled, entertaining talks where she'd outline tactics for meeting the challenges of managing electronic information and the key roles librarians ought to play.  Inevitably, among the people coming up to the podium to talk to her afterwards would be a few saying some version of, "That was wonderful!  Can you come and talk to my administrators?"  Back in our hotel room, she'd be exasperated.  "I've given them the information they need!  I've given them the tools!  They don't need me, that's their job!"

I'm feeling that same exasperation reading all the chatter about the pros and cons of a Winfrey presidential run.  Certainly, if she chooses to run, she'll be a credible candidate.  I don't know if I'd support her, but I'd listen carefully to what she had to say, comparing it to what will surely be a very full field of competitors.

But in January of 2018, that isn't the point.  It's depressing that this is all so many are talking about after the speech.  It certainly isn't what she was talking about.

She was reminding us that there's a lot more work that all of us need to do.  That it was 35 years after the first black man received the DeMille award before the first black woman did -- a signifier of how deep our racism and sexism still runs.  That Rosa Parks went to bat for Recy Taylor 11 years before she sparked the Montgomery bus boycott -- and that she was not successful in getting justice for her.  We've made great progress towards fulfilling MLK's dream, but more than 50 years after that speech, the events of the last year certainly demonstrate how far we still have to go, how fierce the backlash continues to be.

The power differentials that have allowed sexual harassment and assault to go on so often unchallenged for so long are deep in the culture.  #metoo has been inspiring and reassuring for many and that's a good thing.  But remember that Rosa Parks was not just a weary maid who couldn't take it any more.  She was a trained activist who was carefully chosen to spark what her colleagues hoped would be a lever for significant cultural change.  She was part of a movement that was carefully thought out, that had a strategy and that was in it for the long haul.

Oprah said, "Their time is up."  But that's aspirational, in the way King's dream was aspirational.  She said she wants all the girls watching to know that "when that new day finally dawns" it will be because of a lot of "magnificent women" and some "pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody has to say 'Me too' again."

That they become the leaders. The young girls watching, because of the work of all of us watching and listening and talking and figuring out how to fight to make that change.

These are generational changes, not accomplished during one season's exhilarating moments of partial awakening.  

"Oprah2020" is a fine cathartic emotional response at a time when many are hungry for inspirational moments.  I feel it myself.  But putting Oprah -- or anybody -- into the White House isn't going to make the change we need.  Fixating on it is a diversion.  What's needed is the steady work of each of us.  Every day.  For the long haul.  For the generations to come.




Valerie Rankow


Richard Nollan

Well said, Scott! Hear, Hear!

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