Not long ago, I got to spend time with three extraordinary thinkers: Stephen Colbert, one of our wisest (and most wisecracking) political minds; Salma Hayek Pinault, brilliant actress and activist; and Jordan Peele, the director who, with last year's Get Out, gave us the film we didn't know we needed. I wanted to hear what gives each of them hope. Their surprising answers helped me remember something essential: What is good will prevail.

Taking the Really Long View

OPRAH: A lot of people are calling this the Age of Fear. How do you counteract that? Does your Catholic faith sustain you?

STEPHEN: Well, my mother used to say that during hardships in your life, try to look at that moment in the light of eternity—to see it the way God might. Instead of focusing on the past or the future, we can try to see the present moment—good or bad—with humility, acceptance, and love.

OPRAH: I know your favorite Bible verse is from Matthew, the "don't worry" one.

STEPHEN: "So I say to you, do not worry, for who among you by worrying could change a hair on his head, or add a cubit to the span of his life?" And as my father used to say, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Tomorrow will worry about itself." On the day that verse first spoke to me, I was a young man walking down the street in Chicago. It was a very, very cold day, and there were Gideons giving out Bibles. They were handing out the New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms. It was so cold that I had to crack mine over my knee because it had kind of frozen. And it opened to that passage, and it changed my life. Because at that point I had lost my faith. I was wracked with anxiety. And it was the first time I had read the Bible—or read anything—and understood the phrase "It spoke to me." Because I wasn't reading. It just spoke off the page. The words of Christ are that for me. They speak off the page. It's like he's talking directly to us now.


STEPHEN: Talking to us directly with a harrowing challenge, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies.

OPRAH: That's the one. So, in the privacy of your own heart, are you more afraid for this country right now? Or more hopeful?

STEPHEN: I'm always hopeful for this country. This was a great country in the heart of the Depression, it was a great country when we were torn apart by the Civil War—

OPRAH: And civil rights.

STEPHEN: And civil rights. It's a great country because it's based on an idea—another harrowing challenge—that we imperfectly embody, which is that all men are created equal, with equal access to justice and prosperity. As long as that idea does not disappear—even though there will be good presidents and bad presidents, good Congresses and bad Congresses—America will always be the last, best hope of mankind.

OPRAH: I love that.

STEPHEN: Every bit of darkness is only for now. The light always wins.

Hear Oprah's full interview with Stephen Colbert

When You're Scared As Hell, Laugh

OPRAH: Why did you decide to tell a horror story with Get Out?

JORDAN: I've always loved the way horror movies give us a chance to address our fears, which aren't going to go away just because we don't deal with them. The safest way to experience the things we're afraid of is to go to a theater and sit with a group of people and go on the ride together. We make personal progress by not turning our backs on our own fear.

OPRAH: But you believe in the power of comedy, too.

JORDAN: Yes, comedy is my first love.

OPRAH: So what role does humor play in staying hopeful during difficult times?

JORDAN: Laughter is a truly mysterious human need and impulse. I believe it's both a psychological defense mechanism and a catalyst for progress. It allows release and reflection. It's a way of collectively dealing with the absurdity of life and death. If we didn't have it, we'd all be too trapped in existential crisis to function as individuals or a society.

OPRAH: Do you see a hopeful future ahead?

JORDAN: I do. At this country's core, there's an acknowledgment that America is and always will be a work in progress. I find moments of hope in that fact.

Hear Oprah's full interview with Jordan Peele

Trust in Our Power to Change

OPRAH: So much good has happened since you and so many other women spoke up about your experiences of sexual harassment. Do you think that movement put us on a path to a brighter future?

SALMA: Yes. What gives me hope is girls and women. The ripple effect of women coming out and talking and being heard—it's given the younger generation the courage to use their voice.

OPRAH: What about the men? What can men do?

SALMA: I'm excited for men.

OPRAH: Because?

SALMA: Because I think it's the beginning of their curiosity to maybe figure out who we are. And it gives me hope because if you respect women, it's the beginning of respecting life itself. And once you start respecting life itself, you're less violent. Your decisions are not so egotistical. You touch your humanity. Now it is a possibility for men and women to look at life in a completely new way. And to try to look for different solutions to problems instead of repeating the bad solutions.

OPRAH: We can't change what's already happened, but we can change how we respond to it.

SALMA: Yes. We are now conscious of a problem that we'd been looking away from. And to me that's what's important. Let's move on; let's go. What is the next thing? Let's make the next thing beautiful. How do we make it beautiful and better—this life, this chance, this change?

Hear Oprah's full interview with Salma Hayek Pinault


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