Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t know her name? And her name is usually introduction enough. Owner of a television network, publisher of one of the most widely read magazines in the world, a woman whose endorsement, alone, launches businesses and books.
Oprah is the franchise — a business mogul who out “Martha’d” Martha Stewart – a force to be reckoned with. And she is a benefactor – a willing sharer of her money, but even more importantly, of herself.
Most people think of Oprah’s Angel Network when they think about her philanthropic efforts. Formed in 1998, The Angel Network was an anchor program that launched schools, built houses and rebuilt lives.
Like many very rich people who are willing to “buy” much needed things for the less fortunate, Oprah did give her money to fund projects. But she also gave and continues to give something far more valuable – the power of her personal commitment.
Just by asking her viewers to think about how they can “…use their lives” to change the world, Oprah moved more people to action than I’ll bet even she thought possible.
She inspired one marketing executive to stop climbing up the corporate ladder and use her energy to get thousands of pajamas for children who were living in shelters and group homes. A simple act from the outside; a life-changing act of kindness for those kids.
Or how about the millionaire who gave up his day job at perhaps the largest software company in the world to deliver books by the thousands to schools attended by impoverished children living in Nepal?
These are just two examples of how Oprah’s influence moved people to help others.
In a 1994 issue, Vanity Fair recognized just how influential Oprah was, saying, “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope.”
Just 10 years later, in 2004, she made Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. And Oprah has made the list every year thereafter, including 2011, becoming the only person who has been on all eight of the TIME’S list.
I’d call that influence but in the hands of Oprah Winfrey I’d also call it a gift of incalculable value. Oprah’s gift is how she uses her influence to better the lives of our neighbors and to inspire others to help out, too. Her gift spreads like ripples from a pebble dropped into the pond we call earth, moving all of us to do more, give more.
That’s why she belongs on this list of 365 people who are changing the world.
Before you say that it’s easy for Oprah to be generous; she has so much — before you ask, “What can I do?” please think about this. There are a million small ways that we, you and I, can make a difference, a million ways we can ease the life of another.
Tomorrow, 5 quick ideas on how we can help change the world.