What do you call it when you make big life changes to “find your destiny” or “realize your true potential” or to answer a whisper that has been long-marinating?

If you’ve lived in the past quarter-century of Oprah Winfrey, you may simply refer to it as the Oprah Effect.

I’m always amazed when I get a harsh or caustic reaction to the mention of Oprah’s name. I’m sure there are naysayers and skeptics–and reasons for their criticism– but I guess she has just been part of our household and my life for so long that for me there isn’t space to dismiss her reach, her passion, her success, and her motivation to inspire.
For my mom, moving to the U.S. in her mid-twenties, Oprah was a friendly voice and willing tour guide to America and its sometimes-surprising ways. For my sister and I she has been an inspiration, and has set a high bar for what is possible, and what we can contribute, teach, and achieve.
Watch her show and you will see profound examples of the Oprah Effect. Individuals who have creatively raised money for causes in need of support, who have used their own talents to serve, who have lived through excruciating circumstances with level grace and dignity, and who–in spite or because of–events in their lives have found a voice, a place, a purpose.
I would like to think the Oprah Effect has held the hand of social innovation—or at least given it a place to grow.
She is perhaps among the most known coincidental social innovator—using her acumen in enterprise, her expansive platform, and her team-building to raise awareness of social injustice, shed light on environmental issues, toast efforts (charitable and corporate) that are making a difference.
And above all, she has constantly underscored the importance of dialogue–a tenet of lasting social innovation.
We may never know Oprah’s celebrity–never be able to understand how profoundly it can impact the way decisions are made, how deals are brokered, the kind of compromises that are required, how empires are grown. But in seeing the rise and fall of those who have experienced it—I think her commitment to authenticity and service speaks lessons of a career well-pursued.
So, to those who have been moved to be the best version of themselves by the Oprah Effect and those of us who strive to—Oprah, good luck in your future endeavors. And Godspeed.

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