HARPER: Be more like Oprah this year

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Brian Harper

Oprah and I have a lot in common.

As a television personality and philanthropist, she built a media empire that made her, according to The Telegraph, “very possibly the most influential woman in the world.” Similarly, this column, according to my roommate Ryan, makes me very possibly the most influential person in our house.

In addition, Oprah was nominated for an Academy Award and has her own magazine, while I took third place in my elementary school spelling bee and sometimes read magazines. And just as Oprah became a millionaire at age 32, the $342 I will make working at the Tribune this semester will put me on track to become a millionaire when I am 1,462 years old, provided I don’t spend money on anything else along the way.

Because Oprah and I are essentially birds of the same feather, I decided a good New Year’s resolution is to strive to be even more like her. In an attempt to accomplish this, I made my way to her Wikipedia page to find out what makes Oprah, Oprah.

I was struck almost immediately by how much she actually does. Among other endeavors, she has a talk show, radio channel, movie career, undeniable political influence and her own book club. Because she is such a Renaissance woman, I realized I would have to spread my wings and try to become a Renaissance man.

I began to make a list of some new things I would like to learn or accomplish this year. Learning to cook and knitting myself a winter hat were my initial choices. However, in a desire to make the list a little more masculine, I crossed out knitting and added learning martial arts and tying a really good Boy Scout knot. For good measure, I added that I did not want to live in my parents’ basement after graduating.

Oprah is also well known for her generosity. She started a school for underprivileged girls in South Africa and teaches a class via satellite. Furthermore, Business Week estimated in 2005 that she has donated $303 million to charity,including the $11 million Oprah’s Angel Network raised for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005.

As I mentioned, I am not at millionaire status just yet, so I decided I would have to be a kinder, more giving person in smaller ways. My friend Erin started an ESL tutoring program for Hispanic adults, so I could teach in that capacity. I also occasionally volunteered at Milwaukee’s Catholic Worker House last year and decided I could do better at keeping that a part of my schedule this semester.

It seemed like emulating Oprah was going to be smooth sailing, but it soon became apparent there was a problem. When Oprah was asked in a recent interview what her New Year’s resolution is, she answered that she does not have one.
“I don’t make them, because I live in the space that I’m in right now,” she explained. “I move with the flow, live in the moment.”

Fooled by Winfrey!

It appeared that in my resolution to be more like Oprah, I was in fact being very un-Oprah. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that Oprah might once again be onto something.

I have a hard time remembering past New Year’s resolutions, usually because they were either vague maxims like “be a better person” or because I didn’t end up keeping them.

I am all for ambition. I really would like to volunteer more and learn to knit. But ambition doesn’t require a New Year’s resolution. If Oprah’s right—and it seems like she usually is—we might be wise to set goals based on where we are at a given moment, whether or not it is Jan. 1.

That was such an Oprah moment. Everyone who reads this gets a new car.

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