Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

Putting Democracy to Work

In 1991, Winfrey took her personal story of childhood abuse all the way to Capital Hill, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the National Child Protection Act, which advocated the establishment of a national database of convicted child abusers. "I am speaking out on behalf of the children who wish to be heard, but whose cries, wishes and hopes often, I believe, fall upon deaf or inattentive ears," she said. The U.S. Senate heard her moving plea loud and clear. With Winfrey's support, the Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993 and dubbed the "Oprah Bill."

In 2008, Oprah once again put her political pull to the test, using her show as a megaphone to call attention to the Combating Child Exploitation bill. On air, she urged her audience to contact their senators in favor of the bill. The effort led Senate officials to warn staffers that the exhortation might result in "larger than normal volumes of traffic." Their predictions were right. Senate offices were flooded with calls, emails and letters; the bill was signed into law.