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Opinion: Oprah Winfrey: an ambassador in the making?

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OK, so Oprah Winfrey has dialed-back her political profile, adhering to a pledge to keep the stage of her daytime television program candidate-free.

And she discovered that the off-stage help she did provide her choice for president -- Barack Obama -- could have some negative consequences.

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But if Obama gains the White House -- and if Oprah is up for a major midlife job change -- she might consider applying for secretary of State. Or, if the pay cut she’d have to take is simply too daunting, maybe she would offer her services as an occasional emissary to the Arab world.

The Ticket jests -- though not entirely with the latter suggestion; not after reading today’s fascinating New York Times piece headlined: ‘Veiled Saudi Women Find Unlikely Role Model: Oprah.’

Here’s the gist of the article, in which reporter Katherine Zoepf details the effect of Oprah’s show since it began airing in Saudia Arabia in late 2004:

In a country where the sexes are rigorously separated, where topics like sex and race are rarely discussed openly and where a strict code of public morality is enforced by religious police called hai’a, Ms. Winfrey provides many young Saudi women with new ways of thinking about the way local taboos affect their lives — as well as about a variety of issues including childhood sexual abuse and coping with marital strife — without striking them, or Saudi Arabia’s ruling authorities, as subversive. Some women here say Ms. Winfrey’s assurances to her viewers — that no matter how restricted or even abusive their circumstances may be, they can take control in small ways and create lives of value — help them find meaning in their cramped, veiled existence.

The rest of the story can be read here.

-- Don Frederick

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