Oprah: Adoption, politics not for her
Instead, talk show host adopts cause of African AIDS orphans
By Jeordan Legon
(CNN) -- Just back from a trip to South Africa to visit needy children, television talk show queen Oprah Winfrey said she's changed her mind about adopting and, instead, plans to spread the word about the AIDS crisis threatening Africa's future.
"I think most of the people watching us around the world really don't understand the level of devastation that's going on," Winfrey told CNN's Larry King in a rare television interview Tuesday. "You have 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa now suffering as orphans. ... They're AIDS orphans. What I realized is they're children left to take care of themselves."
"If we, as a nation, do not do whatever we can to support these children, you're going to have social chaos in 10 years," she added.
The United Nations reports that up to 28.2 million of an estimated 40 million people worldwide infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.
During her most recent trip to Africa, Winfrey visited clinics, schools and attended a star-studded AIDS benefit hosted by former South African President Nelson Mandela. In the past, she's visited South Africa to deliver gifts to needy children. She also taped a special about AIDS in Africa that is expected to air on ABC December 17 -- and her own show will feature the trip on December 22.
"There's so much sadness in the world and I wanted to be able to do something," she said about the 50,000 gifts she delivered to the African kids. "I wanted to be able to bring a joy to children who would not have had a day of joy. Because I remembered in my life there were times when people did that for me, so I wanted to be able to extend myself and kindness."
Winfrey, 49, who was considering adopting, said she had given up the idea.
"I don't think that that's for me," she said. "I feel that I have a calling. I feel that part of that calling certainly has been to be on television, and to use television in a way that can make a difference. I want to be a voice for those children who don't have a voice."
While not revealing much her hard-core fans don't already know, Winfrey dismissed a caller's question asking if she would consider running for public office.
"No, ma'am, I would not," Winfrey said. Television "is the best forum in the world. I think all the senators wish they had that for themselves."
She said she marvels at her life, rising from poverty in segregated Mississippi to her current status as one of the richest and most powerful women in the world.
"I'm always looking for ways that I can use myself and use my life, use my money, use my time, use my energy," she said. "What I'm interested in doing now is creating a lasting impact. ... My efforts [are] going into schools because education is freedom."