Oprah and Stedman Make a Surprise Visit to His Hometown of Whitesboro During the City’s 30th Annual Reunion Festival

Photo credit: Matthew Strabuk

Bernie Blanks knew days ago that TV personality and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey was going to attend the Whitesboro Reunion Festival on Saturday, but he didn’t tell anyone.

“It wasn’t hard to keep it a secret,” said the 75-year-old president of Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro Inc., the group that organizes the event each year. “We’re very appreciative of her coming to celebrate the 30th year. It means a lot to the Concerned Citizens and the community.”

But even he didn’t know she was going to speak to the crowds of people assembled under a white tent at the Martin Luther King Center. It was the speech made by township police Chief Christopher Leusner about the department’s focus on intervention, education and prevention that inspired her to share her thoughts, Blanks said.

The department has trained all their officers to change their thinking from, “What’s wrong with this kid?” to “What happened to this kid?” Leusner said, adding the goal is to reduce the impact of childhood trauma through partnerships in the community.

Winfrey said she wasn’t going to make a speech, but she felt compelled to speak about the correlation between childhood trauma and health issues, criminal activity, behavioral issues and substance abuse, according to members of the crowd.

“I was happy to see her take the mic and acknowledge the chief of police and support him,” Blanks said. “I knew she had strong feelings about the subject.”

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SOURCE: Press of Atlantic City / Joy105 – Raquel Jayson