Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Oprah Example: How A Class Act Accepts Responsiblity

Hey, big CEOs with ethics problems–learn a lesson from Oprah Winfrey. Yes, Oprah, the talkshow queen of daytime television.

She started a leadership school for girls, in South Africa. When she discovered that 15 girls accused a female staffer of sexual assault, she first immediately removed the suspect from contact with the children (and then, noting a climate of fear and intimidation still existed, removed all the dorm matrons and replaced the with faculty), quietly initiated an investigation (in conjunction with law enforcement officials), brought in American experts to help, made several visits to the school, provided counseling and support, etc.

As soon as an arrest had been made, she called a press conference, outlined the steps she had taken, conveyed deep, sincere apologies, and outlined preventative measures for the future.

Here’s a piece of her statement:

This has been one of the most
devastating if not the most devastating experience
of my life. But like all such experiences,
there’s always much to be gained and I think
there’s a lot to be learned. And as Mr. Samuel
said, we are moving forward to create a safe, an
open, and a receptive environment for the girls
and I’m also very grateful to their parents and to
their guardians and their caretakers for their
continued trust and their support in me and also
in the school.
What I know is, is that no one, not the
accused, nor any persons can destroy the dream
that I have held and the dream that each girl
continues to hold for herself at this school. And
I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to make
sure that the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for
Girls becomes the safe, the nurturing, and
enriched setting that I had envisioned. A place
capable of fostering the full measure of these
girls’ productivity, of their creativity, and of
their humanity. It will become a model for the
world. With each girl who graduates, we will show
that the resilience of the human spirit is
actually stronger than poverty, it’s stronger than
hatred, it’s stronger than violence, it’s stronger
than trauma and loss, and it’s also stronger than
any abuse. No matter what adversity these girls
have endured in their short lives, and let me
assure you, they have endured a lot, their lights
will not be diminished by this experience.

Joan Stewart of has a good piece on this.


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