Writer’s Block: Thank You & Bye-Bye

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by Corinne Wnek

Everyone is leaving me. Oprah is finishing out the last season of her show, Sargent Shriver passed away a few days ago and now Regis is saying good-bye, too. How much can one person take? What’s next? No second term for Governor Christie? Or, maybe a second term for Governor Christie. Either way, I’m feeling the pain of loss. But I’m digressing. Back to Oprah, Sargent Shriver and Regis.

These three people had an impact on American culture in different ways. When we saw them on TV or in magazines we felt like we knew them. After all, Regis and Oprah came into our homes everyday for decades. They’re practically right up there with the Royal Family, that elite group of people who can get away with just one name.

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Oprah Winfrey had a horrifying start to her life. She grew up poor and a victim of all kinds of abuse. Determined to make something of herself, she made good use of opportunities to learn something new when they came her way. She took a risk hosting a show on an obscure TV station and turned her natural curiosity about other people into a communications empire.

Today, Oprah is more than a powerful woman of color; she is color itself. Absurdly generous to her studio audience, yes, but humble, too. Her struggle to lose weight is something any one of us could relate to. But mostly Oprah is about hope, courage and holding on when things go terribly wrong. She showed us how other people dealt with sadness and tragedy so maybe we could take something from that and move forward in our own personal struggles.

The news of Sargent Shriver’s death saddened me because this brought back memories of growing up loving the Kennedy family and everything they stood for. I thought it was cool that they all played football together, even the girls. Their ‘all for one and one for all’ attitude was inspiring. I was even kinder to my little sister because of them. And they had a shore house, laughed a lot and had sailboats. What a contrast to the other politicos of the day. To a fourteen year old, what’s not to like about these people? But Sargent Shriver was different and classier than the Kennedy’s.

As I grew older and more mature in my assessment of this family, I realized that he was the one you knew the least about. He didn’t grab headlines or get drunk and wasn’t seen with beautiful women at exotic locations. As founder of the Peace Corp, Shriver lived the concept of service to others. The idea he put forth of becoming a volunteer somewhere in the world to make it a better place, held a magic sway over me and many others of my generation. I really wanted to join the Peace Corp back then, but was abruptly stopped when my parents mumbled something like ‘over my dead body’.

That brings me to Regis Philbin who is still working at the age of seventy-nine, not a goal of mine. He epitomizes what I always tell my students as they begin their high school career: when things start to get a little tense, remember the F word……..FUN! Make having fun a habit, like studying is a habit. Reeg helps us to see the humor in everyday life and he’s never funnier than when the joke is on him.

Ahh, the times they are a changin’. At least Bob Dylan isn’t going anywhere for a while.


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