Oprah Winfrey made no attempt to disguise her recent struggles with her TV network when she addressed the graduating class at Harvard University.
In fact, it seems like OWN could be facing even more troubles after an online petition begged Winfrey to dump Tyler Perry and get his shows off her network.
Most stars might turn down the opportunity to speak to one of America’s most prestigious graduating classes if they knew their business endeavors were currently struggling to stay afloat. Winfrey, on the other hand, felt it was important that she talk to the class about the challenges she has faced and remind them that it is important to learn from their failures.
Winfrey began her address by saying that the call to speak at their graduation came “in the very moment when I had stopped succeeding.”
She said she had to take time to think about the future of OWN and came to the conclusion that by the time graduation rolled around, her story would be a changed one.
While OWN still isn’t doing quite as well as Winfrey would have hoped, she claimed that the network had finally found its “footing,” and conquered minor setbacks.
Her reflections on saving her network became the premise of her speech, as she then used her story to encourage the graduates not to fear failure or even believe in it.
“I want you to remember this: There is no such thing as failure,” she said. “Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
She told the graduates that to be successful it is important that they find their true passion or story.
“When you inevitably struggle and find yourself stuck in a hole, that is the story that will get you out,” she continued.
Perhaps the most compelling part of her speech was when she encouraged the graduates to break down barriers and build bridges across what usually leaves people divided.
She explained that everyone she has interviewed, from President Bush and President Obama to Beyonce, has asked her if their interview was “OK” when it was over.
Winfrey explained that we aren’t so different from each other after all, and that everyone wants to know that they are being understood.
“Even though this is the college where Facebook was born, my hope is that you will have the courage to go out and have conversations with people you disagree with,” she told the graduating class.
She said her purpose, or story, was to use television as a way to remind everyone that what “unites us is ultimately far more redeeming and compelling than anything that separates” us.
However, that mission is exactly what has a new petition begging Winfrey to get Perry’s new programs off OWN.
The petition, on Change.org, claims that Perry is using his programming to “perpetuate stereotypes” about the black community, which increases the racial divide between audiences and promotes the status quo.
“For decades Oprah Winfrey has used her television show to educate, empower and uplift people of all races to be better versions of themselves,” the petition reads. “OWN has committed to be an extension of this work.”
The petition slams Perry and Winfrey for not acknowledging the feedback they received from the black community and scholars who are experts on racism and who claim Perry’s work damages the image of African-Americans.
“His entertainment is hurtful to the black community,” the petition adds. “He perpetuates stereotypes and has no place on OWN.”
The good news for Winfrey is it seems like there aren’t many people on board with the petition. With a little more than 30 signatures, it more than likely won’t impact OWN’s new programming.
Meanwhile, one of Perry’s new shows, “The Haves and the Have Nots,” has already become OWN’s highest-rated premiere after pulling in 1.77 million viewers.