Oprah and Obama: Two of the Most Influential People in My Life

Oprah Winfrey (right) and Barack Obama (left) are two people that have impacted my life: personally. I have never met Oprah Winfrey, but what she has done for our bookstore (Reading on Walden Bookstore) and for the book business is clearly unprecedented. Even prior to her Oprah Book Club, one word from Oprah sent book sales through the stratosphere. Why? Because Oprah has high standards. She is a person that you can trust. That’s why.

Once she mentions a book, our phones would ring off the hook. Within minutes. Truly. “Do you have that book that Oprah just mentioned?” Well, I am working so I didn’t see the show. Which book was that? After a few calls we didn’t have to ask again which book.

And then, the Oprah Book Club.

Wow. Unbelievable.

Yes, Oprah Winfrey clearly has had a positive impact on our lives.

And then Barack Obama. Unlike Oprah, Michelle and I have met and become personally acquainted with Senator Obama. We first heard about him in late 1999 from his Campaign Manager Dan Shomon. He was challenging Congressman Bobby Rush. To make a short story longer than necessary, my wife Michelle and I and our dear friend Susan, the League of Women Voters of Chicago, the East Beverly Association, the Beverly Improvement Association, Citizens Information Service of Illinois, Reverend William O’Donnell, pastor of Bethany Union and many others organized a Democratic candidates forum at Bethany Union Church in beautiful East Beverly.

And what a success it was. That night was Barack Obama’s coming out party and celebration. The over 600 people in attendance were wowed by this charismatic man. The media was there. All the major Chicago television stations. Print reporters.

The Obama buzz was born. Prior to the debate, Obama would have been lucky to have received 10% of the vote in the East Beverly area. But the buzz and the excitement created that night can never be underestimated. He ended up with 70% of the vote just through word of mouth.


The next day we received calls from people asking “Who was that man? What was his name again? How can I help? Where do I send money?” People were even saying “Future President of the United States.”

I will be blogging more about this subject. And I am writing a book about our experiences in the bookstore and about the time we met Barack Obama. It will also include a chapter about Oprah and her impact on the independent book business. She kept many a book store solvent.

Haven’t signed with a literary agent as yet, but I am seeking a high quality literary agent to represent this project. But meanwhile I’ll keep writing away. And pulling for Oprah and Obama.

Send me an email at readingonwalden@att.net just by clicking send me an email. Looking forward to hearing from you. John Presta.


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