Oprah Gail Winfrey

Honored by:Kathleen Craig
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It takes tremendous courage to follow one's passion. Few are able to be that vulnerable – to open themselves up to the pain and ecstasy of their passion's dimensions. Even fewer are willing to accept the responsibility that comes with passion's unveiling. Those who do-- have no other choice.

The sun's white light often warmed Oprah's face, while a soft southern breeze brought her the sweet essence of life. With the Kosciusko, Mississippi, earth beneath her small brown feet, Oprah felt the bounty of her world, a richness that was beyond comprehension.

Oprah's first six years were spent living on a farm with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee. Though Hattie Mae was Baptist strict, Oprah's spirit could not be corralled. While the curious child was having the Word of God whopped into her, Oprah's child soul was lovingly being nurtured by nature and her creative imagination grew without restraint.

On the farm, life was a time of solitude, a time of isolation, a time of spiritual awakening, and a time of escape. Oprah's oneness with life amplified her aloneness. Her untraditional upbringing in Mississippi has set her apart from those around her.

Near the age of three, Oprah found the experience of reciting before an audience delightful, exhilarating, and natural. Once she had tasted the sweetness of purpose, Oprah was compelled by its passion to grab hold of her spirit, then with hope and vitality, she prepared for her life's journey.

With the power of words, Oprah's world became one of communication and discovery. Words were Oprah's friends, her protection, her escape. They softened the hardness of her poverty and empowered her spirit. It was words that propelled Oprah in her search for truth and identity. So began her love affair with words. So began her romance with people.

In those formative years, as the child prodigy grew so did her unquenchable thirst for the truth and her yearning to belong. As a child of light, Oprah and those around her knew she was extraordinary.

At six, she went to live with her mother, Vernita Lee, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There she hoped to find acceptance. But instead Oprah spent the next three years moving back and forth between her mother and her father, Vernon Winfrey, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ages from nine to fourteen were Oprah's lost years. She moved back to Milwaukee, trying again to be part of her mother's life. There the ground beneath her shifted from the confusion of where she belonged to an open hole filled with neediness.

Milwaukee's desert isolation and stark naked poverty were enormous struggles for a child of nine to overcome. However, the devastating blow to Oprah's flickering spirit was being raped by a nineteen-year-old cousin. At the beginning of the abuse, with little physical affection before the rape, Oprah was unable to separate the difference between abusing and loving touch.

The rape stripped her of her fragile boundaries and stole her childhood. Its deliberate effect was that Oprah lost her sense of self, a loss that has taken years to identify, a loss that is taking a lifetime to heal and learn from. The abuse tied up her innocence and held her soul hostage.

As she started to understand, the touch that felt good began haunting her thoughts and blaming her spirit for its continuation. With each violation, Oprah lost more and more of herself, confusing self-hate with unworthiness to be loved. Oprah's turmoil lead her to years of self-destruction. She was at war with her imprisoned soul, alienating the goodness of her perfect child soul from the guilt and the secret pain that she was forced to carry.

Yet, the pain and abuse gave Oprah's spirit no rest in its destruction. With no boundaries, she pushed the limits of everyone and everything in her life. At fourteen, an aggressive, out-of-control Oprah was sent to live with her father.

This was a pivotal point in Oprah's life. Vernon's home was loving, caring and structured. The boundaries and order that Oprah received at her father's allowed her natural gifts to begin wiggling free, one by one, from the confusion and shame of her early adolescence.

Oprah was able to wander and search for the sense of self she had lost to the abuse. With books as her carriage, she began her healing journey toward her wholeness. Achievements gave her the security and self-esteem to take risks and chances.

Oprah had become financially successful, yet still out of sync with her spirit. Busy making a career to be love-worthy, Oprah was missing the joy of living her life's work. On that Mississippi farm, Oprah had known she was born for greatness and was falling short of its revelation. Oprah ached with emptiness.

At twenty-three, while co-anchoring the news in Baltimore, Maryland, Oprah was given the opportunity to co-host a talk show there, called "People are Talking." She had taken one more giant step on her way to reclaiming herself. Oprah had once again tasted her passion of purpose.

Oprah's passion was as overwhelming as her smile was contagious. It was her time in Baltimore, on the talk show, that the child of light began again to trust her spirit within. Even though she was protecting secrets from her past, she was still able to connect with others in a spiritual way. It was, however, when Oprah began forgiving herself that she started becoming herself.

Baltimore was a healing place for Oprah, but after six years she felt the restlessness to journey on. And the road led to Chicago.

With open windy arms, Chicago welcomed Oprah. And Oprah felt like she had come home. She first worked on the thirty-minute glamorized talk show "A.M. Chicago." However, within a short time, Oprah was offered her own one-hour talk show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Her passion for truth and identity brought her understanding as "The Oprah Winfrey Show" took on a revolutionary – visionary – format. There is an energy that flows miraculously between Oprah and others, giving unspoken permission to interact on a soul level. As she connects on a soul level, she embraces her oneness with life and rejoices in her own individuality.

In 1985, Oprah was doing a segment on sexual abuse. It was then that she felt safe enough to take a risk and identify with her guests. She spoke of her own sexual molestation.

Oprah caught a whisper from her child soul and welcomed the sweet encounter. Her senses were awakened to the beauty of her own soul. As she makes peace with her past, letting go of its secrets and pain, Oprah becomes more fluid in all of life.

Her spiritually guided passion gives her a heart reservoir filled with unconditional love and a light-giving soul. It gives her a high level or moral and ethics. It is ironic that she desired so much to belong. Yet, it seems Oprah will never accept a world where truth is irrelevant to honesty and where justifiable lying is policy. Truth is in the air she breathes.

Oprah, using her light-giving eyes, exposes herself and others to different realities in non-threatening ways. Oprah brings truth and light from fear. Her phenomenal gifts are not there by accident, but have taken her this lifetime and others to polish them up.

Why do I want to honor Oprah Gail Winfrey? To list Oprah's impressive achievements would present us with the possibility to compare her with others. Those accomplishments do deserve recognition and the universe is grateful to her for them. But when it comes to heroines – the reside in our souls and are incomparable.

I marvel at how she can instantly connect with others on a soul level. And how with her gifts and abilities, she uses that connection to help others and herself understand another slice of who they are. She is making a difference in her world – in my world.

Oprah uses the energy flow to generously give back to the universe because she is so greatly blessed. This gives her an incredible amount of freedom to follow her spirit-filled core. Whether it is shaking hands with her guests after the show, lobbying for the passing of a bill for a national list of child abusers or gifting millions of dollars to something she believes in. Oprah is profoundly humbled by the privilege of helping people as her life's work. And when that responsibility becomes overwhelming of its magnitude, her spiritual voice within reminds her that she is not alone and puts her in a place of peace to continue on with her work.

Oprah is a woman with extraordinary beauty within and without. I am empowered by her courage to embrace her passion and I am in awe of the intensity and fervor that she used to follow that passion. Her passion for people and her passion for truth, that were firmly rooted on that Mississippi farm, is as present today as it was then.

Oprah has made a positive difference in the way people think and the way they see themselves. Entering OPRAH GAIL WINFREY's name in the Plaza of Heroines is my way to thank her for following her passion and trusting in her spiritually guided instincts. To me, Oprah's greatness is who she is, not what she has done. What makes Oprah, Oprah? HER PASSION! (K.L. Craig, 1995)