Creative Imagination + Brilliance = … Wait, What?

Is Toni Morrison the new arbiter of wisdom? According to the Big O, she is. We guess eloquence, poise, and a Pulitzer entitle you to intuit people’s mettle, rework the definitions of adjectives, and knight your favorite presidential candidate with the scepter of the wise.

In just the kind of hype-raising speech* you’d expect as Oprah’s contribution to Barack Obama’s campaign —complete with a twang-calibrated cadence reminiscent of a pastor “gettin’ ready to close” —Oprah decided to quote (or perhaps paraphrase) Morrison’s recent remarks about Obama, during a UCLA rally last Sunday:

“Toni Morrison said, “In thinking about the strength of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, Barack exhibits something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates. That something, she said, is creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom…. “Wisdom is a gift. You can’t train for wisdom. You can’t inherit wisdom. You can’t learn wisdom. You can’t get wisdom in the workplace.””

The O goes on to heartily proclaim that, “Barack Obama has the gift of wisdom!”

Pardon us if we expect our emotional physics to provide more comprehensive formulas. We didn’t know that imagination and intellect are all that being wise entails. But then, we also didn’t know that Bill Clinton was “Blacker than any Black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime” until Morrison declared it in a 1998 New Yorker column.

Go figure.

* If you’re into that kind of thing, watch the clip more than once to maximize the sheer amusement of the O’s “Don’t play me small.” admonition. We also dig her four-time proclamation that she’s a “free woman,” and as such, she can “follow her own truth”–the ‘truth’ that has “led her to Barack Obama.” Hmm. He must have The Secret.


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: and here:
  • It’s a rally, yo. People aren’t really trying to hear anything other than what they already believe. “Don’t play me small, I’m not that small” did have something of a comedic effect, though.

    I have to admit, I always thought wisdom = age(knowledge) + stupidmistakes(1000).

  • LH

    Is there anyone more impressed by Oprah than Oprah? Don’t play me small? Okay, I’ll give it to her. She caught me off guard with that one. But did we need to hear it twice? Of course not, but she did. Why? Because she liked the way it sounded coming from her mouth and that’s what counts, dontchaknow. As to her being a free woman, is the idea that anyone believed otherwise or that anyone who thinks she’s a traitor to her gender isn’t free? The answer is that Oprah liked the way that sounded, also. And I have to say that in the context of Obama, declaring that she’s a “free woman” is clumsy. *sigh* Anyone who invokes Morrison vis-a-vis Obama is over for me. It’s unbearable.

  • slb

    LH- The “free woman” thing made me think of a “freewoman,” which made me think of abolitionism, Sojourner Truth, and Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech.

    … I don’t think that’s quite the effect Oprah intended.

    You’re right, too; Oprah is enthralled with the sound of herself. And the only voices she loves more (if that’s possible) are those of Morrison and Angelou.

  • LH

    “Ain’t I a Woman?” occurred to me fleetingly, until I remembered that it was Oprah proclaiming her status as a free woman. Then I knew better.

  • slb

    Maybe she was very intentionally trying to align herself with feminist race-women on the sly? Did she know she’d be evoking “Ain’t I a Woman?” by saying “free woman”… four times? I have a hard time thinking so. I feel like I’d be giving too much credit there.

  • LH

    I think this boils down to her stumbling upon a phrase that resonated with herself and going with it.

  • chellep

    Yep, Creative Imagination + Brilliance = Wisdom, much like Race + Power = Racism (c) Kevin Powell circa The Real World Season 1.
    How can anyone argue with such airtight logic?