Could Oprah be US president?

Today's expression: Speak up
Explore more: Lesson #14
January 22, 2018:

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey gave an inspirational speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January, focusing on injustice and sexual abuse and harassment scandals. Could that be the first step in a potential run for president? We talk about a few reasons why it might be—and a few reasons why it might not be. Plus, we review the English expression "speak up," meaning to not stay silent about something on your mind.

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Could the United States have a second TV star as president? That’s what some people are hoping after Oprah Winfrey’s inspirational speech at the Golden Globe awards.

Hi everyone, welcome to Plain English for Monday, January 22, 2018. Plain English is a podcast for intermediate English learners. We go a little slower than native speech here, so it’s easier for learners to understand. Today is the fourteenth episode of Plain English, so if you’d like to read a transcript of this episode as you listen, then visit PlainEnglish.com/14 and you’ll be able to read along with me. You should also know that if you speak Spanish, Chinese or French as your first language, the transcripts have instant translations of difficult words and phrases. So if you find you don’t understand as much as you’d like to, then the transcripts might be helpful.

We’ve mixed up the format just a bit, so we’re doing one main current events topic and English word or phrase in each episode. This week’s English phrase is “speak up,” which we’ll review toward the end of the show. But first, let’s talk about Oprah.


Could Oprah be US president?

Television star Oprah Winfrey delivered an inspirational speech as she accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globe Awards—and that speech has prompted calls for her to run for president against Donald Trump in 2020.

This year’s Golden Globe awards ceremony was the first major Hollywood event since several prominent figures in the movie industry were accused of sexual abuse and sexual harassment beginning last fall. The most prominent person accused in the scandal was producer Harvey Weinstein, but other figures like Kevin Spacey and filmmaker Oliver Stone were also implicated. Almost all of the women at the awards ceremony were dressed in black to support the women who were victims of sexual abuse or intimidation.

So the moment was right for Oprah, in her speech, to address the scandal, which she did, saying that women were not heard when they spoke up about the abuses perpetrated by men in Hollywood, and telling the women in the audience that “a new day is on the horizon.”

Let’s hope that is true for the media industry, which has suffered a black eye in the last few months, as accusations have poured forth against actors, producers, journalists, and others. In fact, one of the actors present at the Golden Globes was wearing a pin supporting victims of sexual abuse—only to be accused the next day by several women.

But some people think a new day should be on the horizon in another sense, as well. They are seeing the potential beginnings of a political career in Oprah’s speech. And while such an idea might have seemed impossible a few years ago, it feels a lot more possible now that America has already elected one television star to its highest office.

So, could it happen? Could Oprah be the next president? Here are a few reasons why it may happen, and a few reasons why it may not happen. Let’s start with why it might not happen.

First is that people who are dissatisfied with our current television star president might be looking for a more experienced hand in the next election. In order to be a major candidate, Oprah would first have to be nominated by the Democratic Party—and there are plenty of other Democrats who will want to take their shot at running against Trump. In order to be nominated, Oprah would have to beat a number of experienced politicians with established networks and strong ambitions.

Though she appears flattered by the rumors, Oprah has also said multiple times that she would never run for office. At least one of her best friends has said publicly that she doesn’t think Oprah would run for office, though a lot of people are urging her to do so.

Oprah has also not been a vocal participant in politics in the past. For years as a television host, she didn’t even invite political guests onto her show. The first time she ever endorsed a candidate was 2008 when she endorsed Barack Obama. And while she has been a little more open about her politics since then, she isn’t known for having taken sides on important issues in the past.

If all that is true, then what could be fueling all this Oprah 2020 speculation? There are some good reasons to think she would be a good candidate. The first one is the big one: she’s super popular. She is on a first-name basis with the American people: they know her simply as “Oprah.” She’s extremely likeable and she’s a master of the media—a necessity in today’s politics. Her life story is also compelling. She was raised on a small farm in the rural state of Mississippi. She landed a job reading the news at a local radio station, then rose through the radio and TV ranks in Baltimore and Chicago before launching the talk show that made her famous around the world. She has shown the way from poverty to an almost unimaginable level of success—a life story that would resonate with American voters.

People close to Oprah tend to say that she can achieve whatever she sets her mind too, and I don’t doubt that. The biggest question about her prospects in politics is probably whether she wants it or not.


Coming up in the second part of the program, we’ll review one English phrase that you heard earlier. But before we do, I wanted to say hi to a listener this week—Giselle from Brazil. After hearing Episode 12 about self-service or full-service gas, she wrote to say that the first time she ever had to put gas in her own car was when she visited in the United States. So, Giselle, thanks for being in the audience and for listening on Spotify.

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Expression: Speak up