Oprah for president?

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June 1, 2003

Weekdays @ 3pm, only on ABC7!Oprah for president?

A fan was handing out orange bumper stickers promoting the idea, but don't hold your breath.

The idea doesn't interest Oprah Winfrey - top daytime TV talk-show host, magazine publisher, movie star, honored literacy booster and all-round mover and shaker.

"People say, 'Never say never,'" Winfrey said with a broad smile, her big heart-shaped diamond earrings sparkling. But when it comes to politics, "I can say, 'Never.'"

Winfrey was here Saturday for the second stop in her second "Live Your Best Life Tour" sponsored by O, The Oprah Magazine. The four-city tour, which began May 10 in St. Louis and moves to Tampa and Philadelphia in late June, features a two-hour presentation by Winfrey, offering insights and anecdotes from her own life, followed by three hours of more personal contact.

Tickets were $185 - the pricetag also covers lunch and a gift bag - and there were reports of four-figure re-sales on e-Bay.

By 8 a.m., many of the 2,700 ticketholders - almost all women, decked out in their best for the occasion - were in a line that snaked through the downtown Washington State Convention Center to Winfrey's venue upstairs.

"We want to learn how to live our best life," said Teresa Gove, a 38-year-old insurance claims representative who flew up from California for the event.

"We love Oprah," said Dianne Enkerud, 60, a medical transcriptionist from Tumwater. "She has a real gift. She knows how to motivate people - women in particular."

Hydrology engineer Doug Beyerlein, 52, of Mill Creek is hoping to see that gift expanded - perhaps into the national political arena. He came up with the bumper stickers, which he and his wife, Joan, handed out to all and sundry.

"I just don't like what our current administration is doing, both domestically and overseas," Beyerlein said. "I feel we need to change our priorities."

He said he has confidence in Winfrey's motivation and values, as articulated on her show and in her magazine.

"I don't care what party she runs for. ... I'd be happy to vote for her regardless," Beyerlein said. And if she's not interested in running, he hopes that the very idea "will get people talking, bring up issues that need to be discussed."

Winfrey shakes her head. She wouldn't discuss the current administration - "I don't talk politics" - and has no interest in becoming a candidate.

Her next goal, she says, is to become an ambassador for the world's children, especially orphans.

Working with 50,000 children during a visit to South Africa late last year "was a life-changing experience," Winfrey said.

"There was a moment when I went, 'Oh, so this is why I was born.' I had a huge 'Aha!' moment over there that I think will lead me to working with the children of the world."

For that, she'd like to sidestep politics, though her estimated TV audience of 21 million a week and monthly magazine readership of 2.2 million do suggest a knack for moving people.

"I want to use my television platform and my media connections, and my access to different people of the world - the presidents of the world - to become a voice for children who do not have a voice for themselves," she said.

Ultimately, Winfrey said, she'd likely work through the United Nations. "But I really want to work with myself. I want to set it up myself so I don't have to go through ... the bureaucracy and all that."

Born poor in Mississippi, she parleyed personal charm and intelligence into a one-woman industry. This year she became the first black woman to make the Forbes magazine list of the world's richest people, with an estimated worth of $1 billion.

She credits literacy, a gift she works to share through her Oprah's Book Club recommendations and other avenues. Oprah--Weekdays @ 3pm

"Because I could read, I knew there was a world beyond my front porch," she said.

Credited with empowering millions, Winfrey says the common denominator in the human experience is the need for validation. Every person she has ever met, she said - regardless of race, color, background or extent of education - "they're all seeking validation."

And she provides it without hesitation.

"You do matter," Winfrey tells one young reporter. "Because you were born, you matter."

Several dozen fans were picked out of line to welcome her. They cheered and called her name when she arrived, a trim, radiant vision in silver and gold delivered by a black Ford Execelsior that also carried staff and cocker spaniels Sophie and Solomon.

Winfrey spent about 20 minutes greeting her public, chatting, posing for photos, signing books and pictures, and promising a ticket to a woman who'd been unable to get one. Every gesture prompted squeals from the doting crowd, and every squeal was rewarded with an answering smile.