One speech does not make a president

Television host Oprah Winfrey delivered a speech earlier this week at the Golden Globe Awards. She talked about being Black, and being a woman, and living in a society where injustice continues. But enough of that, she said. It is time to finally speak up.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up,” she said, to resounding applause.

The success of the speech occasioned talk, largely online, that Winfrey could be a viable presidential candidate for 2020. There was general frustration with the way United States President Donald Trump has been handling the nation’s affairs—and conducting himself, besides. That Winfrey could be fielded against Trump in the next elections became an even more attractive idea with the latest controversy involving a book that supposedly details the shady, erratic governing style of the current president.

True to form, Mr. Trump said he was confident he would beat Winfrey if the contest ever came to pass. “Oprah would be fun.”

Indeed, Winfrey’s speech was as powerful as it was timely. We know she has a lot to contribute to the discourse and plenty of good intentions. But to float the idea of a presidential run based solely on her popularity and the viral reaction to her speech smacks too much of desperation.

It’s a feeling not altogether foreign to us Filipinos.

We are also  guilty of making ordinary individuals  into larger-than-life characters in our desire for change in the way we are governed.

For example, we started glorifying the son of a famous political couple upon the death of his mother. He did nothing spectacular to merit the attention, really—he was simply who he was. Sure, he has had some experience in local politics, but that was not his own handiwork. It was just a benefit of a prominent last name.

At that time, however, there was growing discontent with the current administration, battling so many charges of corruption. Alas, we saw inertia, hypocrisy, vindictiveness and selective justice.

We also voted into office a maverick local official who seemed to display none of the attributes of the prim-and-proper affectations of the leaders we have known in the past. Less than two years before we elected that tough-talking, expletive-uttering local leader to national prominence, we have yet to see whether change is really coming, and if the change is for the better, not the other way around.

Becoming president takes more than just a sound byte, or a death in the family, or a rousing speech. The demands of the position are mind-boggling and even decades of preparation would not seem enough.

Everybody knows this, of course, but sometimes the temptation to rely more on emotions rather than on logic is just so strong. What it guarantees is that we would only find ourselves in the same rut of discontent, even as the names and faces change. 

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