I Was Responsible for Myself, and I Had To Make Good

Oprah Winfrey? Anne Saidman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: At an early age U.S. talk show host, producer, and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey believed that she was responsible for her own choices and actions. She worked hard to make a good life and obtain success. One of her inspirational quotations used the phrase “responsible for myself”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The 1990 book “Oprah Winfrey: Media Success Story” by Anne Saidman described Winfrey’s activities as a volunteer. She often delivered speeches at churches, YMCAs, and shelters. She helped form a Big Sisters group to support young women in a Chicago housing project. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

She encourages the girls in the group to stay in school, get an education, and take responsibility for their futures. Her advice to them has a lot to do with how she sees herself: “I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1992 the quotation appeared as the epigraph for a chapter about Winfrey in “Contemporary Heroes and Heroines – Book II” edited by Deborah Gillan Straub. 2

In 1993 the quotation appeared in the “21st Century Dictionary of Quotations” within a section titled “Determination”. 3

In 1998 the quotation appeared in “Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World’s Most Influential Voice” by Janet Lowe. 4 The accompanying citation pointed to the 1990 book “Oprah Winfrey: Media Success Story”.

In 2000 the quotation appeared in “Investor’s Business Daily” under the title “Wisdom To Live By”. 5

In conclusion, Oprah Winfrey deserves credit for this statement based on the book by Anne Saidman. QI is uncertain whether Saidman heard the words directly from Winfrey. It is possible that Saidman reprinted the quotation from a previous Winfrey interview which QI has not yet located.

(Great thanks to an anonymous Oprah Winfrey whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1990, Oprah Winfrey: Media Success Story by Anne Saidman, Chapter 6: Spectacular Success, Quote Page 41 and 42, Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1992, Contemporary Heroes and Heroines – Book II, Edited by Deborah Gillan Straub, Chapter: Oprah Winfrey, (Epigraph for chapter), Quote Page 532, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, Michigan. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1993, 21st Century Dictionary of Quotations, Edited by The Princeton Language Institute, Topic: Determination, Quote Page 123, The Philip Lief Group: Dell Publishing: A Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1998, Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World’s Most Influential Voice by Janet Lowe, Chapter: Oprah’s Roots, Quote Page 8, John Wiley & Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)
  5. 2000 November 13, Investor’s Business Daily, Wisdom To Live By, Quote Page 4, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)