What does a multibillionaire need to do to get some respect? Oprah Winfrey spends $40 million to open a school in South Africa for underprivileged girls and everyone is on her case.
Why so much money? Why all the luxury? Did the school really need a yoga room? And, of course, how could Oprah turn her back on her own backyard and spend all that money overseas?
I can't say that Oprah and I have similar visions of how the world works. When I was working on welfare reform 10 years ago I did her show and it was quite clear that Ms. Winfrey and I are on very different wavelengths.
But now I'm going to defend her.
First of all, it's her money. Unlike many in the entertainment business, Oprah isn't hanging around Washington lobbying for you and me to pay for her pet programs. She isn't even doing Oprah-thons asking us to send in checks.
Oprah made her few billion on her own and she runs her own philanthropy program. It's her money, and it's her business how she chooses to give it away.
It's also eminently clear, as her defenders already have pointed out, that Oprah has given tons of money away in her own backyard.
And, frankly, it's hard to question the fundamental instincts of a self-made billionaire when it comes to investment decisions.
"I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going," she says in a Newsweek story about her new school. "If you ask the kids what they want or need, they say an iPod or some sneakers."
In an interview in USA Today, Winfrey says when she has tried to help kids in this country, "I have failed."
This is not to say that Oprah has a clue about what will work to help these kids. But she sure has a feel for what doesn't. And that is simply going into America's inner cities and giving out money.
Are you paying attention Nancy Pelosi? Barack Obama? Black leaders around the country who relentlessly defend a failing status quo despite reams of evidence that we need to do something different?
If we're really looking to be critical about how money is spent, how about a little more attention to those who spend other people's money rather than on those who spend their own.
Yes, of course, I'm talking about the government and those dear politicians who look out so carefully for our welfare.
Who knows how Oprah's school in South Africa will fare?
But could she possibly waste any more money on education than our own government does?
How about our Department of Education, with a budget of $90 billion this year? DOE got started in 1979, compliments of President Carter, with a budget of $14 billion. Anybody out there think our kids are doing six times better on tests?
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