My Plum Assignment!

MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 1986, OAK PARK, IL

Oprah Winfrey was guest speaker at Oak Park & River Forest High School on the very first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.  She jumped out of a purple limo and skipped, hopped and sang her way to the school's main entrance, one day after receiving an Oscar nomination for her work in "The Color Purple."

I got the plum assignment because I was the only student who worked for OPRF's  student newspaper, "The Trapeze," and the school's student produced TV news program, "Newscene."

Winfrey was 32.  I was 17, a Senior at the high school.   

Keep in mind, this was seven months before "The Oprah Winfrey Show'" debuted nationally.

MY MEM'O'

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

Thank you for being a great inspiration.

Recently, I asked some friends: “Who’s the most loved and recognized person alive today?” Everyone agreed you are.

Our interview in 1986 was a “lightbulb moment” for me.

Your spark and remarkable presence are beyond impressive.  I felt so then and even more so today.  It's obvious why you became one of the most influential and powerful figures not in the world.  In fact, I would say you are the most beloved, respected and influential human being on our planet today -- a force for goodness! 

Thank goodness for that!  For YOU!  Thank you.  I love you!

Hearing my nasally voice and accent always makes me laugh and cringe.   

But more importantly, I am proud of that young man who is so earnest and trying so hard to make a good impression.  I remember hoping that maybe one day I might work with you or at least near you.

All of these years later, what I wouldn't give or do to be so lucky.  

Let me cut to the chase -- I'm available!  You looking?

708.821.4670.  Sunday, December 15, 2019.  

"That's a very good question,” you said.

I was thrilled.  I walked away certain I was on the right career path.

I can’t possibly thank you enough.

I, too, have a dream.  I believe The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN,) would be the best place for it.

Imagine I'm looking into your eyes as I'm sharing my dream with you.  I want you to see how important this is to me. 

I lost my mother to suicide.

Nothing could mean more to me than stopping the stigma against people with mental illnesses and stopping suicide.

We've proven that we can change minds and attitudes for just about everything that can ail us below the chin; cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS are just a few examples.  

But when it comes to our brains and preventing mental illness and suicide, we seem to be regressing.  The suicide rate keeps climbing every year.

"What I know for sure," as you like to say, is that we can and must overcome this epidemic.  We are so fortunate that you are willing to speak out publicly about this issue when most people wouldn't dare.

 You have shown us time and time again that you're not afraid to take on any issue.  With your help and leadership, the stigma will be defeated and together, we will save lives.

It’s up to us -- every single one of us.  

After my series, “A Son of Suicide,” aired on WLS-TV/ABC7 Chicago, we heard from thousands of people.  Viewers called, sent in handwritten cards and email messages. 

“The response is like nothing we've ever seen before," former WLS-TV General Manager, Emily Barr, wrote.

Many of the comments and callers were survivors of suicide -- people who lost a loved-one to suicide.  They told me they felt like their story had been told -- finally.

It has been said that the brain is the last great frontier known to mankind. The stigma was the root cause of my mother's death.   Diane Marcus Roy,died by suicide on Monday, August 24, 1995, in Sedona, Arizona.

She feared being judged or called "crazy."  Sadly, even more of us are incapable or too afraid to speak openly and honestly about what's going on in our minds and that is the stigma at work.

Working for you, in close proximity to you, and with your great staff at OWN would be my greatest dream come true.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kevin Roy