Monday, May. 08, 2006

Oprah Winfrey

I believe influence is the union of power and purpose. As a TV star, magazine founder, businesswoman and celebrity, Oprah Winfrey certainly has power. But most important, she has purpose — an abiding commitment to the principles of goodness and generosity that transcend any one individual. I have sat with Oprah in interviews and in my home. I have felt her warmth, and I am always moved by her deep love for others. She makes you want to invite her into your life — and she invites you into hers.

Oprah's story is America's story: a young girl from Mississippi, who grew up without electricity or running water but realized her promise through education and achieved her dreams in liberty. Oprah, 52, reminds us that we who flourish in freedom have a moral responsibility to help others who have the desire to succeed but just need an opportunity. Oprah is helping create those opportunities. Out of her own pocket, she built new homes—and gave new hope — to 65 families who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. In South Africa, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls will educate a new generation of women leaders. And just last year, Oprah launched a successful campaign to help victims of abuse find the justice they deserve, so they can move on with confidence.

For most people, Oprah's influence is less direct but no less meaningful. Those are the millions of ordinary men and women who long to improve themselves — to become better parents, kinder friends and stronger individuals. For those people, Oprah is an inspiration. She has struggled with many of the challenges that we all face, and she has transformed her life. Her message is empowering: I did it, and so can you. So who, then, is Oprah Winfrey? She is a woman of moral character and a source of strength for millions of her admirers. Her life and her work are testaments to the immensity of her bountiful heart. She is influential to be sure. And she is someone I am profoundly honored to call my friend.

Rice is the U.S. Secretary of State