Not Off the Top of Your Head

This week’s U.S. News features a cover story about “America’s Best Leaders.” I don’t particularly care for Oprah Winfrey’s taste in books or new-age psycho-babble, but I thought she had an interesting take on the responsibility that comes with fame.

Your voice gives you a unique place–your combination of business leader and entertainer. How does that shape your role?
I see it more as a calling. We live in a society that doesn’t pay attention to you unless you have money or fame . . . . The responsibility of people who have money and fame and some kind of clout is to use that in a meaningful way. There is also responsibility for me to always be thoughtful and never flippant.

Does that stifle you?
No. It’s actually more stimulating because it means . . . you have to go to a deeper place where nothing is coming from just off the top of your head.

Prattling off the top of one’s head is a constant danger for everyone and especially bloggers, because the nature of their craft requires continual content. So I like the way Winfrey sees that danger as a challenge for greater intellectual responsibility.

On an unrelated note, US News includes columnist Thomas Friedman among its leaders. You know how one event can color how you see something ever after? That happened to me years ago when I ate peanut brittle immediately before getting the stomach flu–I know it’s the post hoc fallacy, but ever since I despise a food I once loved. Well, a less extreme version of that occurred when a friend pointed out this wonderful roast of Friedman. I know it’s unfair and at times needlessly vulgar, but it so delightfully skewers him that that article has permanently framed my picture of Friedman. I imagine that’s like the golden note struck by Thomas Nast in his cartoons of Boss Tweed: a ridicule so powerful that no one can think of Tweed without Nast’s images.

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