Friday, January 05, 2007
Oprah leads; celebs, media follow

Oprah Winfrey and CNN's Jeff Koinange in South Africa.

South Africa is used to hosting all manner of celebrities. After all, who wouldn't want a photo-op with one of the world's greatest living legends, Nelson Mandela, the man who spent 27 years in prison and walked out forgiving his tormentors?

But this past week, one celebrity managed to steal the show under Mandela's watchful gaze, and the "old man" didn't mind that it was none other than U.S. talk show host, Oprah Winfrey.

You know the story ... Oprah's $40 million leadership academy for girls in South Africa has generated enough publicity to attract not only the world's media to the tip of Africa, but also Hollywood's elite.

Everyone from Tina Turner to Mariah Carey, from Chris Rock to Chris Tucker, from Mary J. Blige to India Arie, from Spike Lee to Sidney Poitier, and many more have made the journey to the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg.

Oprah, as usual, was in her element, working the crowds, showing off her "girls" wearing their new green uniforms. Oprah herself picked the uniforms out. (And yes, Oprah does have plans to open an academy for boys, too.)

Oprah, of course, asked everyone to bring a favourite book. Chris Tucker brought Rick Warren's bestseller, "A Purpose-Driven Life."

"It's helped me so much," Tucker told me. (By the way, my choice was the story of Mohamed Amin, the famous cameraman who filmed, among other things, the famine pictures in Ethiopia back in 1984 that led to the whole "We Are The World" campaign. It's appropriately titled, "The Man Who Moved The World." Amin died when the plane he was on was hijacked and later ran out of fuel, crashing into the Indian Ocean in 1996.)

Back to Oprah and her mission.

It's the day after the big event, and Oprah's people have lined-up a press junket for her. She has more than a dozen interviews to do this morning with stations as far away as Chicago and Los Angeles. CNN is first, at 9 a.m. local time, a live-to-tape interview with Anderson Cooper in New York.

Anderson Cooper interviews Oprah about her new school.

Anderson comes up on the satellite. He's stayed up well after his 10 p.m. show (it's now 2 a.m. ET) and he and Oprah are chatting away like old friends. The interview starts promptly. Oprah's great, Anderson's equally great. The whole interview is great. They say their goodbyes over the satellite and Oprah gets up to go get ready for her "sit-down" interviews with the reporters who are there in person.

I grab a bottle of water and hand it to Oprah and ask her if we could do a walk-and-talk in the school courtyard, something different. She agrees immediately: "Whatever you want, Jeff."

The cameras are rolling and we proceed. Oprah talks about why it was important for her to visit the homes of the girls to see what their background was. She spoke candidly about how she grew up poor, how difficult her childhood was, how she overcame certain obstacles and why she feels these girls will do the same.

"I have no doubt that this school will produce the future leaders of Africa," she said. "I'm so excited."

She's excited? Imagine the girls, by this time walking around the campus in little groups, confidence written all over the small faces. They're out of uniform, but wearing matching outfits -- some in orange tops with blue jeans and orange sneakers; others in green tops with blue jeans and green sneakers. It all looks so surreal, so pristine, so nice.

As Oprah and I walk, I feel as though I'm witness to a great event. A woman has come here to South Africa from far away on a mission to make things better, in her own way, one girl at a time.
Posted By Jeff Koinange, CNN Africa Correspondent: 2:41 PM ET
  77 Comments
Oprah spent 40 million dollars on a school that can only house 150 girls. She could have built so many more schools and educated many more poor childern. Why didn't she? Because by building one, expensive school she received all of this media attention. She doesn't care about these kids, she just wants to tell everyone how great she is.
Posted By Anonymous Leslie, Santa Monica, CA : 3:01 PM ET
I wonder is Madonna and Oprah have the same publicist? I think Oprah should come back to the U.S. and open a few schools for rural poor Americans that can't afford a good education. Maybe she could adopt a few small school districts and help them. She will soon learn that the guilt of living an overly luxurious lifestyle can't be fixed by running to Africa and doing something quasi nice. The idea that Americans should run to other countries to improve them, when thier own back yard is not tidy is amazing. Oprah, I have one last thing to say to you-- Fix the materialistic country we have become first, one that you helped to fuel with your show, then go elsewhere and fix their problems.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 3:12 PM ET
I just hope that amidst all the marble tables and 300-count linens Oprah has provided mentors for these kids who will teach them that if you've got a strong family grounding, good character, responsibility and if you work hard, you can't fail. These are the things Oprah doesn't have time to show them, but now she has established an environment in which they can begin their new lives.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 3:18 PM ET
I greatly admire what Oprah does and think the school is great, but I really hope CNN's coverage isn't completely fawning. Her comments in Newsweek regarding inner city US schools are pretty infuriating.

Of course those students want things like Ipods because they've grown up in a materialistic culture and my problem with Oprah is that she greatly perpetuates this culture with her focus on her celebrity friends and shows based on her "favorite things."

It's Oprah's money and she has a right to do what she wants with it, but it's pretty hypocritical of her to criticize the priorities of impressionable students when she actually is a contributor to our country's unhealthy focus on celebrity and wealth.

That all being said, I hope the school is a success and I wish those girls well.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:25 PM ET
Oprah Winfrey should make up her mind whether she wants to be an American citizen or one of South Africa. All that money could have certainly gone along way here to fix some of our problems. This egomaniac has always been and will always be a publicity hound.
Posted By Anonymous A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 3:25 PM ET
Oprah said, "I have no doubt that this school will produce the future leaders of Africa. I'm so excited."

Blogger said, "There is NO doubt in my mind Oprah that your school will produce future WORLD leaders."

Congratulations, Oprah, for the opening of your new school and for giving these young ladies an opportunity beyond our wildest dreams!
Posted By Anonymous Renee Washington, DC : 3:26 PM ET
Hi Jeff, God Bless Oprah. There seems to be some criticism of Oprah's giving in Africa instead of the U.S. Guess what? It's her money and her choice and I commend her for her choice. Jesus said, "what you do unto the least of my brethern, you do unto me", and God really does not care where the "brethern" reside.
Giving to schools in this country would be thwarted by the Teachers Union unless they got their share.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn Michigan : 3:27 PM ET
Just a correction to Leslie: The school will eventually have ~500 students. These 150 are just the first to enter, they should be adding a class each year.

But I'm sure 500 still doesn't impress you.

I however am very impressed with her generosity and wish her school all the luck in the world!
Posted By Anonymous VW, Washington DC : 3:27 PM ET
Oprah earns a "ridiculous" amount of money, but the bottom line is that she earned it, it is her money, and she has the right to spend it in any way she chooses! I'd be happy to send her my address if she is looking for a domestic charity..........
Posted By Anonymous Angela, Chicago IL : 3:29 PM ET
In a day and age when celebrities are such magnetizing forces, it's a shame to think that the bulk of them are irresponsible and immoral dummies that can't put an intelligent sentence together. Rather than use their fame as a forum to be role-models, or use part of their ridiculous earnings to do good works, we can typically find them involved in petty, silly, and embarrassing situations -- and it's sad. Case in point: Donald vs. Rosie.

There are few people who truly get-it, and Oprah gets-it big time. Thank God for Oprah.
Posted By Anonymous Lucy, Toronto, ON : 3:29 PM ET
She did a great thing. The more I hear people put her down about it the more I am reminded why children are dying in Darfur everyday and we do nothing. Because those little faces are BLACK.
Posted By Anonymous Theresa, Richmond, VA : 3:31 PM ET
It is Oprah's money. Therefore, what she chooses to do with it, is her business. Her critics are free to donate their money to whomever they choose.
Posted By Anonymous C. Carter, Chicago, Illinois : 3:34 PM ET
Of all the rich and powerful people who donate time and money to help the less fortunate, no one compares to Oprah, nor probably ever has. No one has ever attacked such a huge world problem from the bottom up as she has. To have been blessed (or saddled) with such inner strength and opportunity, to have risen from a childhood of such depths to a position of such power has probably never been seen before.

Because she is not constrained as a member of any government she is able to accomplish what SHE believes is important for humanity, and is able to try her hardest to fulfill the responsibility that comes with such "blessings." I think she holds more power than any past U.S. president, and more benevolent direction than any CEO. The fact that she is a (slightly) overweight, BLACK FEMALE is just the coup of the century! Talk about dispelling stereotypes!

It's unfathomable how much power she'll be able to spread through her African children for the future of the world. Girls who, like Oprah, KNOW the opposite end of the spectrum they're operating in. Most people will never attain the strength these girls have gained from their past struggles. I see this project as Oprah training her little soldiers to fight the war for humanity. (Imagine 152 little Oprahs running around the world!)

I'm sure that Oprah will get plenty of instant gratification right now, but the real impact of her generosity probably won't even be realized until she's no longer on this earth and should give the naysayers a clue to the extent of her selflessness and intent.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Manchester, NH : 3:36 PM ET
Oprah herself said that she has visited several inner-city schools and that she was frustrated with the fact that U.S. students do not have any passion for learning and that all they want are iPods or sneakers. Oprah is right by not wasting her pearls to swines; her pearls are better scattered in other places where people are appreciative of any help that they can get. And for your information, Oprah has contributed much of her wealth with less privileged Americans! Stop bashing her and emulate her instead!
Posted By Anonymous Rafa, Boston MA : 3:37 PM ET
Why South Africa, why not Sierra Leone, why not Afghanistan or the Congo, why not the poorest sections of Mississippi?

You know why? Publicity. Oh, we are all so naive and gullible.
Posted By Anonymous Tina T. Pleasant Prairie, Wis : 3:39 PM ET
In Oprah's own way, that's fine. It's her money and her life. Why US news networks propogandize her brand of obnoxious, boastful, conspicuous consumption for an elite few in Africa while portraying American youth as materialistic and lazy, is pathetic. Do you think the many African kids not handselected to attend Oprah's splashy school are thankful for the real world lessons they are experiencing as the stark reality between the haves and the have nots? To be fair & balanced, CNN should interview the thousands of little girls whom are reminded daily that they just aren't good enough to receive a decent education, with or without a marble table.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Ann, Chicago, IL : 3:43 PM ET
Jeff, did any of those students ask for autographs! As they move further into there lives they will learn their is some money to be made on Ebay
Posted By Anonymous Claude Calgary Canada : 3:43 PM ET
While I fully support efforts to help Africa, we also could use donations to build decent schools right here in America. Why didn't she donate money to build a new school for the high school kids in Washington, DC who are attending schools with leaky roofs and no working toilets?
Posted By Anonymous Paula, South Bend, IN : 3:44 PM ET
i guess nowdays people cannot take someone's good gesture for what it is...something nice!!!too bad oprah has to get all this flak for trying to help underprivilieged girls in Africa...i think what she did was great!!!
Posted By Anonymous catherine h.,quebec city,can : 3:45 PM ET
I think Oprah is using her "celebrity" in a wonderful way. I can't imagine how special it was to see her girls proud and ready to start a new life. It must have been a wonderful feeling to see it in person. Thank you...
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 3:47 PM ET
I read elsewhere on this site a viewer question asking "is it FAIR" to criticize Oprah? I ask you, who is immune to criticism? We're not in socialist Russia, we have freedom of speech. This sort of reminds me of those who say "you can't criticize the 9-11 widows on their politics because they suffered great lose" and "you can't criticize Cindy Sheehan's positions because she lost her son". Well, are we supposed to agree with and accept all things Oprah because she gives gazillions of dollars?
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 3:48 PM ET
If the RICHEST most POWERFUL country in the WORLD, cannot educate their children properly, it is not up to Oprah to do it for them.
Posted By Anonymous Dee, St. Louis, MO : 3:52 PM ET
It is amazing to me that someone acutally doing something good with her money is being critized. Is the fact she did it in a different country any different than the MILLIONs of dollars US churchs spend outside this country to support misson work, etc.? Wouldn't those dollars do the same in the US that others are saying Oprah's money should have done? Creating a wonderful place to provide quality education - what a powerful message to those young women for them to see that a single person would invest so much money, time, effort and attention showing them they are worthy of such a place. Go Oprah, spend your hard earned money as you see fit, and bless you for your generosity!!
Posted By Anonymous Cindy McKenzie, Helena, MT : 3:54 PM ET
Jeff, I'm sorry but the title of your post says it all. Where ever Oprah goes, she must bring her "celebrity friends" as well as the media to pat her on the back and tell her how wonderful she is to do such good in the world.

I recognize that this $40M school is allowing 152 girls to have an opportunity at a better life. It is good that she invests her money in South Africa. But couldn't so much more have been done to give both girls and boys a chance at a better life with less elaborate schools spread throughout the region? Why the extravagance?

Yes, I saw Anderson's teaser last night that she said these girls were coming from huts and she wanted them to experience the luxuries in life.
Hm, I'm sorry but didn't she just slam the inner-city school children in the United States for wanting such luxuries instead of an education?

I truly had no problem with Oprah investing her money in this school until she gave that inane justification for not putting her money into US schools. I hope that the interview between Anderson and Oprah wasn't all wine and roses since it was Oprah herself who asked Anderson to investigate inner-city school systems for the secrets we all Americans should be told about. She should have been made to answer for her hipocracies. However, I get the feeling from your blog post that Anderson did not do that at all.

Jeff, I respect you as a journalist. I appreciate your reports from the region. Your true emotions come through in every report. I cannot say the same for Ms. Winfrey.
Posted By Anonymous Ms. Sheryn Royce, Pohatcong, NJ : 3:56 PM ET
I think that Oprah could have done more with that sum of money. But who am I to judge? I think that anytime a celebrity wants to put any money toward making this world a better place, they should be recognized in a positive way! More celebrities could learn from this.
Posted By Anonymous David, Toronto, Ontario : 4:05 PM ET
Just wanted to say I read the first few blogs and can't believe that people don't see this as a good thing! Great JOB Oprah!
Oprah has done so many things for so many people in so many different ways. MOST OF ALL SHE MADE A PROMISE AND FOLLOWED THROUGH ON BUILDING THIS SCHOOL!
Posted By Anonymous Arica Rasheed, Mastic Beach, NY : 4:05 PM ET
It's amazing that people can take such a beautiful thing and actually seek to find something ugly about it. Of all the critiques about Oprah giving to the motherland, there wasn't a single acknowledgement of the money she gives to numerous causes right here in America. How many houses did she build post Katrina? How many black men have escaped the statistics and are attending college? SHAME ON YOU. For a young Black girl to rise from the poverty of the racist south to do what she has been able to do, I say Thank You. As a mother of 3 Black daughters, I say Thank You Oprah for making it easier for me to show my girls what the possibilities are. At a time when the rest of the world has pretty much written off the African continent, it is incredible to see the hope for the future through the eyes of these young Black girls who are on the road to saving the Continent.Instead of criticizing and displaying the usual ugly American attitude, take a moment to look within yourselves and find a way to give back. At least Oprah is doing something. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Posted By Anonymous Marianne, Los Angeles, CA : 4:06 PM ET
I didn't like the generalization of all inner-city kids not wanting to learn. There are plenty that do, and I just hope that wasn't the only reason she didn't help the country that made her successful. I'm glad those children are getting help, we (as a country) made you Oprah... our families, our interest in you. How about helping our families first?

While she can do what she wants with her money, as others have said, we can also ask about her intentions when she justifies herself with quotes such as the inner-city one. As Americans, it is our right to question everyone and everything, including our government, celebrities, big business, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Tony, Boston, MA : 4:09 PM ET
Oprah is such an amazing person and an outstanding role model for girls all over the world. She knew she wanted to do something great for South Africa and what better way then to open an incredible school for girls. Oprah wanted the highest education for these girls and it has been like a dream come true for all of them. Oprah has a heart that is always filled with love. I admire her for everything she has done in South Africa. I'm so glad Oprah choose all of their outfits and the design for the inside of the school as well. All of the students definitely have a positive future ahead of them. I can't wait to see the interviews on Monday's show. Oprah.. you are amazing.
Posted By Anonymous Kelsey Reindel West Palm, Fl : 4:14 PM ET
Oprah earns her money, and therefore is entitled to spend it as she sees fit. Instead of bashing her for not building schools in America, her detracters should go to Mr. Bush and ask him why our taxes are not being spent on more important projects (such as building schools), but rather on wars that have no plausible reasons to be.
Posted By Anonymous Masseny, Minneapolis, MN : 4:17 PM ET
This is typical Hollywood fanfare, feel-good Oprah Show PR. If Oprah really wants to do something meaningful about the challenges young people of color face getting a good education, she could start in almost any Chicago suburb. If the kids, as she has said in the past, "only want IPods and Nike's," then start a campaign to educate their parents. People of color need champions right here, at home, in these United States. How many times does Bill Cosby have to say it before we "get it"???
Posted By Anonymous Mark Eaton, Lancaster, Massachusetts : 4:17 PM ET
Leave Oprah alone! If this was done by a WHITE AMERICAN MALE, will all the nay sayers be so ready to raise their voices in objection? Since when Oprah was in charge of America's school? I thought that was the Government's job. I think this petty jealousy stems from her being a powerful African American Woman making a difference and racial White America cannot deal with it.
Posted By Anonymous John, Chicago IL : 4:20 PM ET
I am astonished at the outrage by Americans who are criticizing Oprah for what the United States Government is responsibile for. Yes, 40 million dollars is a lot of money if spent on a public school, but this is not a public school it is a private leadership academy for girls that is free of charge for these very underprivelaged children. Oprah has donated tremendous amounts of money to the children of America through college scholarships, grants and boys and girls clubs of America etc..... What we as Americans should do is voice our frustration to The American Government who has spent HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars of TAXPAYER (not Private) money on a war not worth fighting nor the tremendous loss of life.
Posted By Anonymous Pia B. Brooklyn,NY : 4:20 PM ET
What it all comes down to is that its HER money to spend as SHE wants to and its really nobody else's business. No matter what their faults and politics I admire the few celebraties who put their money where their mouth is. Instead of blowing hot air they go out and actually make a difference. Would that we would all do that.
Posted By Anonymous Jackie, Natchitoches, LA : 4:22 PM ET
I think there is way too much criticism flowing in Oprah's direction. With her own money, she has done something absolutely amazing for the young girls in South Africa, giving them an opportunity that they might have never gotten if it weren't for her.
For all you harsh critics out there, stop looking so deeply into this wonderful deed for flaws. Why don't you go criticize those celebrites who endlessly waste their money on God knows what instead of those who use their money for an excellent cause?
Posted By Anonymous Manisha, Los Angeles, CA : 4:24 PM ET
It's Oprah's money and she can spend as she chooses. The sad commentary is that US students have such 'plugged in' turn me on wants, instead of real needs while US education continues to fail. So much for the Information Age. Can we ever get back to reading is fundamental?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 4:28 PM ET
I think both sides of this debate have their points; what saddens me is that anyone with a lot of money - who gets publicity (which is the only way anyone would know about it) - is tainted. On the other hand, if they don't do anything, they are just selfish and egocentric. So, if anyone is going to fault Oprah - and plenty are - then I'm glad they are faulting her for helping people with money no one else seems to be making available to the poor black girls - who wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity like this. I agree with others who wrote in support - thank God for Oprah. Her critics can just keep faulting her for helping others - and I hope she keeps on generating criticism - as she changes the World for the better. (Meanwhile, when was the last time you donated money to South Africa?)
Posted By Anonymous Christina Sacramento California : 4:29 PM ET
You go MAMA WINFREY. Thanks for opening that wonderful school for the girls in South Africa. You followed up on your dream of creating a fabulous school. I love you girl.



To the people ripping on Oprah: She just spent $40 million to open this school. She defends herself by saying the kids in the US would rather have ipods than an education ... and that is probably true. She invested her money where she knew people would be grateful for it. I don't see any other celebrities opening schools!
Posted By Anonymous Celsie O Toledo, Oh : 4:29 PM ET
It saddens me to read the criticism of Oprah. I don't watch her show every day, it doesn't appeal to me, but her humanity does and for that, I believe she should be applauded, not the other way around. It is not Oprah's job to better American schools, though she has brought attention to them, nor is it Oprah's job to be the constant voice for poor Americans, though she does her fair share. She is only one woman who has chosen a voiceless continent who has no one to be their voice, their protector, their crusader. I cannot imagine what it is like to be in Africa, to live there, where war, famine, rape, and brutality are a constant reminder that no one cares. Where the only way to protect yourself is to have the larger weapon. What kind of life is that?

So Oprah is giving these girls the gift of knowledge, a wonderful gift that can help them succeed in life, get out of that trap of brutality, and lead their country to a better way. Who is anyone to say Oprah doesn't care and is simply using their plight to better herself? As far as I am concerned, Oprah sees the bigger picture and is at least doing something, while others continue to do nothing.
Posted By Anonymous Kelly - Cygent, Ohio : 4:31 PM ET
For goodness sake, you cannot please everybody and especially not at the same time. There will always be a flip-side to all situations. Oprah is not the savior of the world, but she is being obedient to her spirit. If her spirit said "build in Africa", then she is in good company. We all need to listen to our inner-self and follow what is good and decent. At which point, one will never have time to critize because all will be too busy doing good.
Posted By Anonymous Sandra Broughton, Rockaway Beach, New York : 4:35 PM ET
To make the argument that Oprah should do more for American kids would be like telling the U.S. government to cut off billions of Aid dollars to other poor & rich countries. Although, its fun because as a Black American, most people from a african country do not perceive a connection with us, unless we use our access to help them.

We are dealing with to different paradigms here. Oprah, doesn't need to do as much in America, because our problem is NOT money it is poor use of the money we have and failure to take or educate ourselves for the jobs we have.

Facts:

1. American families waste money on unhealthy food, purchase cable-tv, purchase $20.00 DVD's, purchase $300.00 Nintendo Systems, Purchase $100.00 Sneakers, drive SUV's that eat up gas with only one person in the vehicle going to work.

2. There are plenty of jobs in America, so many that we have to import Technology Guys from India, Russia, Europe, etc.

3. There are plenty of low-wage jobs that DON'T REQUIRE COLLEGE DEGREES, which most of the poor don't have, but they complain that the salaries are to low, thus the central & south American immigrants make 100's of miles journeying up to Walmart, which the guy standing on the highway asking for a handout can't walk 3 blocks to Walmart....And why is it that the Mexicans can come here and work in the farms or factories and in 5 years they own their own cars, homes, etc. It's because they don't go as crazy as we do trying to keep up with the Jones.

3. Our education system, is screwed up because of Union's, an unfair property tax funding system and a incompetent congress...And some parents that don't know how to raise their kids, therefore, causing school to redirect needed funds into school safety (i.e. Metal Detectors, Security guards, etc).

4. We don't lack basic needs in the U.S., we go nuts over the "WANTS" and feel that our problems (Made with our own free will) are somebody else's fault.

So no Oprah contributing $40 million, here would be like giving a man a fish verses teaching him how to fish. To many people here want to be given a fish and don't want you to question why they haven't learned how to fish.

In Africa: Granted they are some of the most corrupt countries in the world and are the cause of most of their problems, they have the same problems as America just in Reverse.

1. No jobs to apply for and if they do have jobs next to nobody is qualified.

2. Education System: What education system.

3. Transportation System: What transportation System.

4. Healthcare System: What health care system.

Africa has so much ignorance that it may never change as long as the rich countries and the united nation (Specifically China which doesn't want anything that would create a precedent when it tries to take over Taiwan) keep raising the SOVERIGHTY flag when it comes to intervening in other countries that cause their own people suffering.

Besides, as American's when you live with lazy family members who make bad choices in life and don't take your advice but keep asking for money. What do we do? We cut them off, but we will join a non-profit and help the exact same people, people who have made bad choices and did not want to listen to anybody, but now want others to fix their problems......yeah yeah of course there are people that truly need help, but unfortunately, they are not the problems, it is the lifers that the government (i.e. us the tax payers) have to take care of from the craddle to the grave.....
Posted By Anonymous James, Mineapolis, Minnesota : 4:40 PM ET
All of those that wish to make negative comments about what Oprah is trying to do should visit the slums that the girls have come from. I would challange you to find anything like it in the USA. Only then can you say "why not here?"
Posted By Anonymous V.Jones Denver, CO. : 4:47 PM ET
"As you Judge Oprah, so you shall be Judged". She is a woman of action. She has simply given an opportunity; as she has been given one. I challenge every person who typed a negative comment to sponcer one child (here) in America, or anywhere in the world. You will then become part of the solution. You will also see how your dollars can affect change. Oprah HAS spent millions of dollars on Americans, remember the Katrina victims. It was simply a beautiful thing to do, and she didn't need anyone's approval when she signed the check.
Posted By Anonymous JoAnn Gardner Palmdale, CA. : 4:55 PM ET
Oprah is creating OPPORTUNITY to children who live in a completely different reality that even most of the poverty stricken kids in the American Inner Cities. Being poor in America can be at many times a luxorious life in comparison to being even middle classed in some 3rd world countries. And to those who criticize her of doing this for PR reasons keep in mind that Oprah really has no need to improve her image. She has been giving for years, whether it be to people who are already well off or poverty stricken kids in the inner city. It is obvious that she is a compassionate and caring being who is concerned about change for the better in the WORLD, not just country, that we live in. Shouldn't this be all that matters? Oprah's show may at times be material driven, but overall it is well rounded programming and I think that PROSPERITY of all kinds is one of the main ingredients Oprah believes should be in everyone's life.
Posted By Anonymous Merrick, Los Angeles CA : 4:59 PM ET
What Oprah has done is great but she should also invest money into our school systems as well. Yeah the children may be materialistic but they have to be reprogrammed and maybe she is the one to start that reprogramming. but with that said, why fuss at Oprah when this country managed to fine billions of dollars to fight this unjust war but could not find that many before 9/11 to help our school systems. Education is not a priority in America getting rich is the main priority in America.
Posted By Anonymous David, Brooklyn, NY : 5:00 PM ET
While I am not a fan of Oprah, I do believe she has done a great thing here. Now if this could only snowball, and others whom have the money would follow suit.
Maybe make more schools on that kind of dollar; and have them open the doors to both boys and girls.

But it is a start.
Posted By Anonymous Stacey, Ottawa, Canada : 5:02 PM ET
I agree with Pia from NY and I add, most people are complaining because they are prejudiced and do not feel that these girls deserve the "best of the best." Do your part and if you can't just shut up!!! No one raises heck when others spend the same amount or more on houses or private jets. Thank you Oprah, Dikembe ( who spent similar money on a hospital in Congo) and every one who helps a faceless child and saves a life everyday.
Posted By Anonymous Toyin, Omaha NE : 5:03 PM ET
Wait and see what will happen, how white America and the media will react 'if or when' more rich and influencial blacks from the USA start doing the same right thing; donate to Africa or build meaningful institutions. They will vote for a law banning such movements, and also perhaps threaten to freeze their accounts...or try any evil manouvers to boycot their lives here in the US, with the support of the ignorant larger white mass.
Posted By Anonymous Tesh Benparice, NewYork-NewYork. : 5:03 PM ET
Should we have a party to celebrate Oprah's recognition and substantiation of the future leaders of S. Africa? Thankfully there isn't an Oprah, or a youth ID police in the US to separate future American leaders from their loser counterparts. We are fortunate to live in a land of the free, with equal opportunities. I thank Oprah and her celeb entorage for identifying the disparity between those assumed by her to have future promise versus others who apparently do not. Thank goodness she won't be messing with our kids.
Posted By Anonymous Roseanne, Kenilworth, IL : 5:13 PM ET
If these were white kids in let's say Russia, I wonder if Oprah would be criticized? I think not. The critics are mad, because they think that a school this fancy, is too good for black children.
Posted By Anonymous Liz,Howell,NJ. : 5:15 PM ET
I think what Oprah is doing with her money is just wonderful. The africian nations have been depleted of educated people due to aids and wars and tribal fighting. Maybe the rest of the world could learn from her example.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Boyne City Michigan : 5:16 PM ET
People who can't take criticism sometimes shout 'racism.' Now look at Donald Trump; he gets criticized for being abrasive. What would you say if he claimed racism, that because he's a WHITE AMERICAN MALE, he's being dissed unfairly. You'd laugh, right? You'd say that he's fair game, he has an advantage, and that only AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALES can use that defense. Please! No one is criticizing her color, they're criticizing her personality.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 5:21 PM ET
I have read the comments on the blog and see that each side has a point. However, at the bottom line, it is important that everyone remembers that each one of us is responsible to contribute to society in our own way. Don't sit and complain...do what is in your heart! Not all good comes from money...volunteer and set an example!
Posted By Anonymous Jen S. Washingron, DC : 5:23 PM ET
It is amazing that there are actually people in this country that would put down this great thing Oprah has done! They tend to forget that America is blessed with many schools of this status, the question is why are they kids not aspiring to go there? Soweto has just been blessed with hope, an icon, something many of the children can look forward to and strive to achieve. This is a legacy and we should be proud that an American woman did it. (Let us leave race out of it)

People keep talking about her comments about inner city schools, did she make them up? This was her experience and besides you cannot tell me that it was the only reason she built the school in South Africa. She made a promise to Mandela, you can't imagine what it must mean to her to be able to fulfill this promise and also make dreams come true for these girls at the same time. It is amazing!

Please let us come together as a nation to congratulate her and let her know how proud we are that she is an American and a great ambassador.
Posted By Anonymous Yinka Daramola, Kirkland WA : 5:26 PM ET
Jeff,

As I read your blog, I thought I bet there will be a lot of critical comments about Oprah's school--why is so luxurious, why is it built in Africa, etc. I think it is very legitimate to ask those questions and I hope Anderson did. His interview should not have been only a lovefest.

However, I do not have those questions. Why shouldn't those poor African girls have nice things and soft sheets? Oprah's ancestors came from Africa so why shouldn't she go back to her roots? Other Americans do. She is walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Over the years she has done a lot to support education here in the US. She has provided college scholarships to students in every state through her Angel Network. She has proudly shown off on her show black male graduates from Morehouse to whom she provided scholarships. Think of the Habitat houses she has built.

Oprah has worked hard for her money and is sharing her blessings with others. Instead of trying to pick at the speck in her eye, we should remove the log from our own. Now if I could just get out of my mind her interview with Tom Cruise...
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 5:31 PM ET
Jeff, Jambo Sir,
I'm not surprised at all by the outrage from some people over what Oprah has done to these Afrikan girls. Typical, feeling that nothing good deserve to be given to these African Kids,who by the way are very appreciative of it. As if Oprah's giving to so many causes here in America doesn't mean anything anymore,now that she is giving to Africa! Advising her on what she could've done with HER 40 million.
I advice those people to ask themselves what have you done to help inner schools,or any cause,which are many? and if you have ,have you done enough? if not ,its still not too late,time is now go do something positive to help a stranger ,use up that energy you're using to bash Oprah for doing something positive.
Oprah will remain strong and will keep on doing great things anywhere she want in this world.She is beyond one country alone,sorry folks.And she will be rewarded by Almighty God when she is gone and the future generations will give her the Honor she deserve.And I'm giving her all the Honor while she is still around,I wont wait.
Asante Sana sister Oprah.
Posted By Anonymous Subira Pontiac MI : 5:37 PM ET
Disclaimer: I am Nigerian-American.

Now, I have taught in inner-city schools and like Oprah consider education-- more specifically knowledge--to be one of the few things in life that is a worthy pursuit for its own sake.

These are my thoughts:

Oprah's comments about inner-city schools cut too wide a swath. However, that is my ONLY criticsm about what she has done.

Why not here? In our most rural/inner-city schools, umm...we actually have buildings, water and electricity. We have public libraries; scholarships for the bright; and ALL public education is FREE. In remote villages in Africa and other parts of the world this is often not the case. To be sure White South Africans are not rushing to admit poor black kids in their schools. In any event, has contributed immeasurably here.
Why not another African country? South Africa has the highest profile of any African country, (a hard pill to swallow given my background) including Egypt.
Is she doing this for the attention? She gets all the attention she needs as it is. This allegation makes no sense.
Why the extravagance instead of more kids? Pondered this one hard. This is what I came up with: Why be minimalist? Even if Oprah added a 1000 more students, there would still be another 1000 kids and another, etc. So identify a reasonable and meaningful number and provide them with the highest quality education (perhaps the world over). Oprah's vision is seeing these children compete on the worlds stage and have a say in our collective human destiny. In the process why not esteem kids who have seen suffering you and I will never experience?
WHY AFRICA (the question no one wants to ask)? Oprah has proudly emphasized the impetus for her choice: she sees herself in these kids EXACTLY like I see myself in the kids I teach (and not just because I was born in the U.S.) Oprah knows like no other that one theme runs through the neglect evident in Darfur, Katrina, NYC police shootings and on, much like our national interests are aligned with certain countries more than others. Just the way it is. While she can't mandate government or public action, she is blessed with both the resources -- and the notion -- to compel change where it is needed. Call it the "American dream" in South Africa.
Posted By Anonymous James Ogun, Washington, D.C. : 5:41 PM ET
Hi Jeff,
Charity, is not decided by a vote. It's up to the person giving the bucks to determine how their wealth is spread around. Oprah doesn't need shouting from the peanut gallery, she needs us all to follow suit. If it's a dime or it's a million we should give whenever and Wherever we can. That's my bossy two cents worth. Thanks Oprah.
Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 10:14 PM ET
I am sick of people critisizing Oprah! Although I agree that she could have used her money in different ways, it's not my money to spend...IT'S HERS! Let her do what she wants with it! People are focusing on the negative, not the positive. Let's look at what she did, not what she didn't do. For goodness sakes...at least she's doing something to benefit society! She has already done so much in our country, and all she's trying to do is spread a little love. People act like that's a bad thing.
Posted By Anonymous Maddie Johnston, Minnetonka, MN : 10:57 PM ET
i almost agree with "Lesile" aidea on this money she can support alot of african people who are starving & need a medicen to servive from HIV.....she build a nice bilding ...get more attention...it's really stupied thing i know she don't really care about the students but this Holywood people they really need attntion...so pls think about how to spend u'r money ..
Posted By Anonymous mimik; Adiss abeba ETHIOPIA : 1:48 PM ET
Oprah Winfrey has done so much for so many over the years. She shares not just her material wealth, but her soul. She is such a strong role model. I think it's great that she opened this school. These students deserve a chance, too. They are human. We are all human. As such, we should help each other regardless of race, gender, nationality, or religion. Oprah gets it. I wish more people did.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 1:57 PM ET
I hate it when people are critical of the good that is done by someone else. Who cares where Oprah decides to help. At least she is helping. True, there are children in this country who need help, but there are children everywhere who do. She started somewhere. Africa is where many of the problems began for Blacks (slavery, colonization...etc) and Oprah appears to be starting from the beginning. African-Americans lack a strong foundation and connection to Africa. A stronger Africa is indeed in everyone's best interest. So unless you have money to do better, shut up.
Posted By Anonymous AnnaLisa, San Jose, CA : 2:12 PM ET
You go Oprah.... You are my Hero!
I am an American citizen, but was born in Jamaica, there are a lot of good Americans out there, but there are a lot of envious and jealous ones likewise.You are in a class by yourself. I hope someday I'll get to meet you.
Posted By Anonymous Annette, Mansfield OH : 9:26 PM ET
Yes Oprah is probably doing a good thing. Education is important and hopefully will break the viscious cycle of poverty and war in Africa. First of all, why is all the black celebrities flocking to South Africa? As far as I can recall not a lot of them were streaming to Zimbabe, Congo, Zaire? All the countries need help.
Second of all, Oprah is dead set against racism but still have only one or two white girls in the school. I know she said that she did'nt need to do anything to appease the white people but 12 and 13 year olds cannot be held responsible for apartheid, (sins of the fathers). There are a lot of poor white people in South Africa so I am sure she could have founded just one more white girl.
Posted By Anonymous Regina Vancouver Canada : 11:27 PM ET
It is amazing how much press Oprah has at her "I want to change the world events". Is this by chance, or does she make sure everyone knows about all the good things she does. She really likes the camera.
Posted By Anonymous Mike P, Edmond, OK : 11:28 PM ET
It seems like some of the bloggers have issues with celebrities and the news. If I recall, bloggers also complained about Angelina Jolie. Whether you are fans of Oprah and Angelina or not, you can't ignore the fact that they are simply trying to make a difference with something they are passionate about. I am inspired by their strength and proud that they are showing women around the world that they too can have a voice and accomplish whatever they set their minds to. With all of the conflicts occurring in Africa, it was refreshing to hear something good is happening in Africa for a change!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 12:32 AM ET
I don't think Oprah's actions speak of goodwill but rather of popularity and attention, simply put out of self- interest. To be generous and do a good deed, one must not publicize it to rest of the world or seek approval from fellow celebrity friends but rather do the generous deed and take that as it is.
Posted By Anonymous Jananee, Toronto, Ontario : 1:56 AM ET
In a land of sickness, poverty, hopelessness, despair, and death...Oprah is providing these children with hope, vision and a future. There are many things that one can lose in life, but education is not one of them. Once you have it, it belongs to you. It can transcend you to places and accomplishments never before dreamed possible. If one follows Oprah, her gifts and travels , it would be known that originally she took Christmas to the children; while there she saw a need and filled the void, education. It is where the future begins for children of the world, not just Africa or L.A., or Chicago, everywhere! All future accomplishments begin with education, with that first book that grabbed you! It is the seedling of personal growth, a sociological building block, and more importantly in this country very possibly survival of the next generation. The students may become the next scientists, community leaders & educators of their respective communities. The thought that anyone would speak poorly to such an honest gift from the heart is shameful.
More importanly, all those who offer criticism should remember the money is hers to spend as she chooses.
Great job Oprah, more should practice what they preach in this country. I wonder how much money, time, or community service those who criticize your efforts have given to charity in their own communities?
Posted By Anonymous Donna, Tierra Verde, FL : 2:36 AM ET
I think it's interesting that so many people are complaining that Oprah could have done more here in the US. It's as if she's done absolutely nothing. This woman is one of the most philanthropic people on the planet. She's given to colleges, universities, communities, disaster relief (Katrina and Tsunami), and the list goes on and on. What I also find interesting is that no one seems to have a problem with other people, celebs or otherwise, who take their money and contribute outside the US. Newsflash: there are more people on the planet than just Americans. It's called global thinking. Warren Buffett believes in it so much that he handed his money over to the Gates Foundation whose MISSION is global giving. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the luxuries of life as long as you remember to help others in need. I think more people stand to learn from Oprah's example of charity. This has nothing to do with personality. You don't have to like her. But you must acknowledge the fact that this school is a major step toward equality for women who live in a country where the odds are totally stacked against them. In the end, when you earn 1 billion dollars, are you really concerned what a bunch of other people think of you and what you do? Probably not.
Posted By Anonymous Stephani, Tulsa, Ok : 10:10 AM ET
I praise Oprah for what she's doing. Many will say she's doing it for publicity. Only Oprah knows the answer to that - but, if publicity brings wonderful things like this, I'm all for it. Somehow, we must find ways to reverse the growing distances in this world between poverty and wealth. In her own way, one child at a time, Oprah is making some progress.
Posted By Anonymous David Ross, San Antonio TX : 11:05 AM ET
Applaud to Oprah. As a women who grew up in poverty and struggled to get a decent education, I cried when I saw Oprah's school. These girls have been given a lift-time opportunity to dramatically change her and her family's furture, the country's, the Africa's, maybe even the world's. I hope they would grow up to be great leaders.

Oprah's comments states her experience. What is wrong with that? Can anyone make sure he never makes any biased comment? It's not Oprah's job to do a full survey before she comments. Didn't Bill Cosby say something similar before?

Does US shools needs the 40 million deparately? As an angry homeowner facing increased property-tax every year, I'm not convined money is ever the problem. The whole education system fails. The teacher's union sucks. I just paid $5000 school tax and still have to figure out how to send my kids to a great private school. How can this happen?
Posted By Anonymous Ling Zhou, Albany, NY : 11:22 AM ET
MAN, I love this blog and the debates and passion it invokes in people.
I will admit I watch AC360 nightly but will skip tonight's "special hour". You thought the Donald/Rosie horror was a publicity stunt? Well, so is this. I'm sure Oprah will have a whole hour on her show about it. Why CNN? I'm perplexed.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 11:59 AM ET
I don't get it. How can anyone complain about this? Oprah is a role model for all celebrities... Yes, she's rich, she earned every penny. Her wealth hasn't made her stingy, greedy, uncaring... She is a wonderful, caring person.

If everyone did their part, however small or big it may be, what a better world we would have. No matter it be in Africa or here in the US... we are all human.

God bless Oprah! Thank you for your generosity.
Posted By Anonymous Christine, Toms River, NJ : 12:13 PM ET
I found it sad to read so much criticism of Oprah's decision. How often do individuals fail to take positive action due to not knowing what to do, not caring enough to act, or fearing someone's criticism that it might be judged as less than ideal or worse? In this world amidst so many hardships we need more gentleness with one another and support for the actions of anyone seeking to due what is within their means to do. Oprah's means are far beyond most of us; I am deeply grateful for what she has done. Much of South Africa's healing came from the belief in Ubuntu. According to that belief, the connection between us all is emphasized. When South African little girls get a beautiful school and a good education, the benefit comes to us all.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara, Newport Beach CA : 12:38 PM ET
I find it unbelievable that so many are criticizing Oprah for BUILDING A SCHOOL, for goodness sakes! Wow! So what if it is in Africa. Who'd appreciate it more. I am an American, a teacher, and still am very proud of Oprah for being so generous for helping even one African girl. Americans have ample opportunities; Black Africans do not.
Posted By Anonymous Tajah, Dover, DE : 1:50 PM ET
What Oprah is doing for the girls in South Africa is great, but her recent remarks about the desires of inner city school children were disappointing. There are so many areas in this country which have school districts that are underserved and without the proper resources to give the kids the sort of education that would allow them to achieve their dreams the way Oprah herself has done. Yes the government should do its part, but someone like Oprah who has the ability to make a difference in this country too chose to write off these disadvantaged kids with a broad generalization. I happen to know plenty of young people who DO want an education and to better their lives but the resources just aren't there--Oprah knows this herself since she and Anderson did a very disturbing report about the horrible conditions in some Washington, DC area schools. I certainly hope she reexamines her feelings about the kids here and possibly try to do what she's done in South Africa in this country too.
Posted By Anonymous Fay, Vacaville, CA : 2:05 PM ET
How come nobody critisized the $10 mil+ she poured into New Orleans thru' her angel network? is the criticism because she's loved Africa when no one else is willing to? Look at Darfur and how despite all the pleas there's still very poor response. Kudos to Oprah and God bless her. Give selflessly to others before you are critical of someone else's actions!
Posted By Anonymous Dimples, NJ, USA : 2:33 PM ET
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