Opinion: Sensationalism surrounding celebrities for president must stop


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Oprah Winfrey speaks after accepting the Cecil B. Demille Award at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. January 7, 2018. Paul Drinkwater/Courtesy of NBC/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. For editorial use only. Additional clearance required for commercial or promotional use, contact your local office for assistance. Any commercial or promotional use of NBCUniversal content requires NBCUniversal’s prior written consent. No book publishing without prior approval. – RC1A679211B0

By Bridget O'Toole, Round Table opinion editor

Every Saturday morning, I wake up at the crack of dawn, drive across the state of Maryland and watch as women’s dreams come to fruition. I’m an intern for the organization Emerge Maryland, which trains qualified women to run for office. These women have worked their entire lives to run for office, something, as I’ve learned throughout the training’s, they do entirely for others. They endure close to a year of 8-hour long Saturday’s to have the chance to change other people’s lives.

That’s sacrifice.

Seeing the passion in these women’s eyes is why I’ve been taken aback, to say the least, by the overwhelming sensationalism circulating around unqualified celebrities running for president. These celebrities have absolutely no prior experience in government, and are simply popular because of the fame surrounding them, whether it be for media or corporate empires, or being a prevalent face on the TV of American households.

Hundreds of thousands of qualified people are vying for a role in the American political landscape, starting at the local level and progressing to national positions. These are people that have spent their lives sacrificing their time for the advancement of other humans. This matters to them and their lives have been devoted to mastering their crafts. So, to see those already with money and power now competing for such an important role in our government scares me.

It all really started with Donald Trump. Surprising, right? Yes, this troubling trend, on top of the innumerable other problems, sprouted from his candidacy and presidency. Trump created a new era of politics, one where social media is more important than reputable endorsements, where headline making, and controversial speeches are more important than comprehensive plans for the country, and having a television show is more important than a lifetime track record of service.

Running for President has become so much more than who is the most qualified, it’s who can attract the most people, whose name stands out on a ballot, and who people think will make a splash in office.

Don’t get me wrong, making a splash can be an incredible thing for the country, FDR did it when he came into the office and completely altered the role of the presidency, turning around the Great Depression with his New Deal. But, making a splash has come to mean putting the unqualified in office, as many think those who come from different professions can make the most difference.

In Donald Trump’s case, that means business. Bringing more business, means Goldman Sachs executives making big decisions about the well being of the common people; that doesn’t sound like an effective shaking up of the office to me, as they make decisions in their favor (the top 1%).

The most recent celebrity put into the limelight as the “next” shaker upper, on the left this time, is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s name was officially thrown into the mix after she gave an impressive speech in her acceptance of the Cecil B. Demille award at the Golden Globes. Oprah was recognized for her outstanding contribution to the world of entertainment, as she has not only been nominated for a Golden Globe in her role in the 1985 movie The Color Purple but has been a devote philanthropist throughout her lifetime as a talk show host and head of a media empire.

Her speech was awe inspiring to say the least, yes, I cried, yes, I got goosebumps, yes, I was to say the least, inspired after hearing it, but none of it makes her qualified for president.

Most notably, Oprah spoke of a “new day on the horizon”, that “time is up” for the men who abuse their power. Her speech was captivating, I held onto her every word and felt like I was 10 years old again, listening to the hope intertwined into every word of former president, Barack Obama’s speeches.

If I was asked to decide if Oprah was qualified for President strictly based on her speech I’d say yes in a heartbeat, as she sounded like a seasoned politician. But, knowing her background I can’t say she has what it takes.

Being President takes more than a pretty face and an ability to inspire, it takes a certain kind of capability. Let’s face it, some pretty boring people would make pretty good presidents.

I think Oprah has a few options as to where to take her passion she displays for politics. One, she could get involved now, run for state office, then work her way up to Congress and see if in 15-20 years she has the experience to take on the office, however she’d be in her 80’s by then. Second, more realistically, she could become the face of the Democratic party. She could be the unifier they’ve been searching for and she could support and stand by the Democratic nominee in the Presidential election.

If the Democrats are looking for an indubitable win in 2020, Oprah isn’t the answer, neither is the Rock, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Howard Schultz. The country needs stability and skill, patience and an appropriate demeanor expressed in office. While all of these things are lacking with Trump, they don’t have to be in 2020.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Terry McAuliffe, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, are all qualified in one way or another. Sure, you can find flaws in all of these people, but lack of experience isn’t one of them.

So, when you’re thinking about working on a campaign, or supporting candidates not only in the Presidential election, but local ones too, look at them as a whole person. Think about the experience and qualifications they have before you’re blinded by their fame. Think about those women training to hold office to help you, not themselves.