It might have been a first for a Salt Lake TV newsroom. Several
hundred KUTV2 viewers were given tickets for an advance showing of Oprah
Winfrey's final show at the Clark Planetarium IMAX Theater at the Gateway, complete with goodies and raffle prizes. ---
While the freebies weren't quite to the level of Winfrey's famous vehicle giveaways, they were an excellent home-grown version of gifts for everyone--including a plush stuffed bear holding a $1,000 gift certificate from a local lasik surgery company, a cool aluminum desk-size picture frame, a coupon book containing stuff like 2-for-one theater tickets, and more.
But the star of the event was, of course, Oprah saying goodbye. It was a historic moment in television.
And though I gritted my teeth and fought it, I must confess that I cried. The show was something unique--not merely a retrospective, nor a hackneyed inspirational message, but Oprah herself grabbing everyone watching, deeply revealing herself, while revealing you to yourself at the same time. That sounds trite, but if you were there, watching that show on a huge movie screen, you realized why this little black girl born in a rural Mississippi town grew up to be larger than life, instead of "a maid or a teacher at a segregated school."
There were no other stars on the show, it was all Oprah, though she did introduce her first grade teacher, beloved because, in her words, as a child without much love in her life, that teacher was the first person to validate her. Then she said that's what all of us, every single human on the planet, is looking for: validation. Deep in our hearts, we want to know, "Do you see me?"
She added that even people who think it's all about money and fame, who get those things but still don't feel happy, often don't feel validated because deep inside, they don't feel worthy. And echoing Lady Gaga in "Born This Way," she said, "You are worthy. You are worthy of happiness just because you exist." That was when my tears overcame my will.
It sounds like she was preaching some kind of self confidence, but it wasn't at all like that. She wasn't preaching. She was sharing her deepest internal truths--and even that doesn't sum it up. She was communicating, telling us viewers, for example, that all life is energy--something that quantum physicists only discovered in modern times, though ancient philosophers discovered it millennia ago.
There were photos of Oprah throughout the years, making us laugh as
she poked fun at some of her outfits and hairstyles. She made our hearts ache as
she mentioned the sexual abuse she suffered when young, and presented
a clip from a past show where 200 men stood in a group, each holding a picture
of themselves as a child at the age they were first raped.
Oprah said, over and over again in many, many ways; that she was the one who was blessed to be able to do her show, that it was her calling, it was what she was put on earth to do, and how grateful she was to every one of her 25 years of viewers who allowed her to do it. But what she had to say on this final show was not just to her fans. It was a love letter from her to all of us, and to God as well. It was love that Oprah Winfrey wanted to help give the world, a quest that became her mission, so by showing us who all those others are inside--the politicians, drug addicts, writers, doctors, criminals, heroes, movie stars, victims, servicemen and women, wife beaters, CEOs, philosophers--that they are humans like us, and if we can just understand, love will follow.
She walked off her stage, and then we all walked out of the theater, to the
lobby where top KUTV executives handed us teddy bears and goodie bags, and thanked us for being there. And when I walked
outside, my heart was so full of love that I couldn't hold it all, and I just
wanted to shout to everyone in the world, "I love you, I love you," and keep
shouting it until finally, everyone heard.
Thank you, Oprah Winfrey. Godspeed.
Wina Sturgeon writes the Get Out column for City Weekly.