In a dramatic moment at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, California First Lady Maria Shriver stepped out onto a stage that had already seen its share of celebrities, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder among them, and announced that she was backing Barack Obama. It has been reported that Shriver was waiting backstage wavering over whether she should make her support public, and then she finally walked out onto the stage.
Shriver told the crowded gym that she had not intended to be at the rally, and had come straight over after going horse riding with her daughter. She joked about her appearance, riding clothes, without makeup and without having her hair done, as she added her support for Obama. “If Barack Obama was a state he’d be California,” Shriver said, drawing roars from the crowd. “I mean think about it: diverse, open, smart, independent, oppose tradition, innovative, inspiring, dreamer, leader.”
And she spoke about the themes of optimism and collective action that Obama has sought to build his campaign around. “He’s not about himself. He’s about the power of us and what we can do if we come together,” Shriver said. “He is about empowering women, African Americans, Latinos, old people, young people. He’s about empowering all of us.“
Shriver, a former network television journalist, also acknowledged some uncertainty over taking such a public stand. “Sometimes, when you follow your own truth and your own voice, it’s scary,” she said. “But that’s all you can do.”
Shriver was on stage with Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Shriver said she made the decision this morning. “I wasn’t on the schedule,” she said, “and I thought to myself when I woke up this morning, I thought, there’s no other place I should be than right here.”
California First Lady Maria Shriver Endorses Barack Obama
The Oprah Winfrey who roused the crowd at UCLA on Sunday was far different from the Oprah who made her political debut endorsing Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in December. In her first steps on the campaign trail Oprah was unexpectedly tentative, almost shy. But on Sunday, Oprah had clearly found her voice. She was much more like the woman we see on television every day: sharp, funny, opinionated, but fed up with women who tell her she’s a “traitor” for endorsing Obama over Clinton.
“After Iowa, there were some women who had the nerve to say to me, ‘How could you, Oprah, how could you?‘” The talk show star mimicked her critics, affecting a pinched nasal accent. “‘You’re a traitor to your gender.’ I was both surprised by that comment and insulted. The truth is, I’m a free woman,” Winfrey told an enthralled crowd. She repeated “I’m a free woman” three more times.
“Being free means you get to think for yourself and you get to decide for yourself what to do. So I say I am not a traitor, I am just following my own truth, and that truth has led me to Barack Obama.” She came back to the theme later, talking, again in a mock accent, about women who say, “‘I‘m a woman, I have to vote for a woman.'” She disagreed, strongly asserting that, “As free women, you have the right to change your mind. You’re not a traitor because you believe and see a better way.”
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