Oprah and the Power of Example

   
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    In our last interview post, Cheyenne talked about many things, but what really stuck with us was her statement that by the time she went to college she knew a total of three football players, who would end up being drafted into the NFL. At the same time, she didn’t know a single doctor, lawyer, or engineer. That’s powerful—examples are powerful. The meaning of practical success in our communities matters. The role of authority figures in our communities matters. What you see and what you are told, over the course of months and years, begins to paint a picture of what is achievable and what is completely outside the realm of possibility.  Sunday night, at the Golden Globes, Oprah laid it out for us. She talked about many critical issues, but for this post, we’re going to focus on her opening:      “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.”     “…   I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses.”      For many of us, seeing someone who looks like us, or who comes from similar circumstances achieve something spectacular, opens the floodgates of possibility. Whether it’s seeing the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, the first black president of the United States, or the first black woman to receive the  Cecil B. DeMille award  at the Golden Globes—it matters. Because the door of what is possible in our lives has been cracked a little bit wider.

In our last interview post, Cheyenne talked about many things, but what really stuck with us was her statement that by the time she went to college she knew a total of three football players, who would end up being drafted into the NFL. At the same time, she didn’t know a single doctor, lawyer, or engineer. That’s powerful—examples are powerful. The meaning of practical success in our communities matters. The role of authority figures in our communities matters. What you see and what you are told, over the course of months and years, begins to paint a picture of what is achievable and what is completely outside the realm of possibility.

Sunday night, at the Golden Globes, Oprah laid it out for us. She talked about many critical issues, but for this post, we’re going to focus on her opening:

 

“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.”

 “… I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses.”

 

For many of us, seeing someone who looks like us, or who comes from similar circumstances achieve something spectacular, opens the floodgates of possibility. Whether it’s seeing the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, the first black president of the United States, or the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes—it matters. Because the door of what is possible in our lives has been cracked a little bit wider.

   
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     In 1964, Poitier also became the first African American to win an Oscar for best actor.   Some of you might be striving for something that hasn’t been done before or for something that hasn’t yet been achieved by someone like you or simply something that you haven’t seen done within your community. We know how intimidating that can be and we’re inspired by people like Cheyenne who are working towards their goals not just to succeed for themselves, but to show their families and their communities that it can be done.  So, whether you’re just starting out or well into your journey, keep going, we’re counting on you to #bethefirst.

In 1964, Poitier also became the first African American to win an Oscar for best actor.

Some of you might be striving for something that hasn’t been done before or for something that hasn’t yet been achieved by someone like you or simply something that you haven’t seen done within your community. We know how intimidating that can be and we’re inspired by people like Cheyenne who are working towards their goals not just to succeed for themselves, but to show their families and their communities that it can be done.

So, whether you’re just starting out or well into your journey, keep going, we’re counting on you to #bethefirst.