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  • This program is brought to you by Stanford University.

  • Please visit us at stanford.edu.

  • Well, thank you, President Hennessy,

  • and to the trustees and the faculty,

  • to all of the parents and grandparents,

  • to you, the Stanford graduates.

  • Thank you for letting me share this amazing day with you.

  • I need to begin by letting everyone in on a little secret.

  • The secret is that Kirby Bumpus,

  • Stanford Class of '08, is my goddaughter.

  • So, I was thrilled when President Hennessy

  • asked me to be your Commencement speaker,

  • because this is the first time I've been allowed

  • on campus since Kirby's been here.

  • You see, Kirby's a very smart girl.

  • She wants people to get to know her on her own terms, she says.

  • Not in terms of who she knows.

  • So, she never wants anyone who's first meeting

  • her to know that I know her and she knows me.

  • So, when she first came to Stanford for

  • new student orientation with her mom,

  • I hear that they arrived and everybody was so welcoming,

  • and somebody came up to Kirby and they said,

  • "Oh my god, that's Gayle King!"

  • Because a lot of people know Gayle King as my BFF [best friend forever].

  • And so somebody comes up to Kirby, and they say,

  • "Ohmigod, is that Gayle King?"

  • And Kirby's like, "Uh-huh. She's my mom."

  • And so the person says,

  • "Oh my god, does it mean, like, you know Oprah Winfrey?"

  • And Kirby says, "Sort of." I said, "Sort of? You sort of know me?"

  • Well, I have photographic proof.

  • I have pictures which I can e-mail to you all

  • of Kirby riding horsey with me on all fours.

  • So, I more than sort-of know Kirby Bumpus.

  • And I'm so happy to be here, just happy that I finally,

  • after four years, get to see her room.

  • There's really nowhere else I'd rather be,

  • because I'm so proud of Kirby, who graduates today with two degrees,

  • one in human bio and the other in psychology.

  • Love you, Kirby Cakes! That's how well I know her.

  • I can call her Cakes.

  • And so proud of her mother and father,

  • who helped her get through this time, and her brother, Will.

  • I really had nothing to do with her graduating from Stanford,

  • but every time anybody's asked me in the past

  • couple of weeks what I was doing, I would say,

  • "I'm getting ready to go to Stanford."

  • I just love saying "Stanford."

  • Because the truth is,

  • I know I would have never gotten my degree at all,

  • 'cause I didn't go to Stanford.

  • I went to Tennessee State University.

  • But I never would have gotten my diploma at all,

  • because I was supposed to graduate back in 1975,

  • but I was short one credit.

  • And I figured, I'm just going to forget it,

  • 'cause, you know, I'm not going to march with my class.

  • Because by that point, I was already on television.

  • I'd been in television since I was 19 and a sophomore.

  • Granted, I was the only television anchor person that

  • had an 11 o'clock curfew doing the 10 o'clock news.

  • Seriously, my dad was like,

  • "Well, that news is over at 10:30. Be home by 11."

  • But that didn't matter to me, because I was earning a living.

  • I was on my way. So, I thought, I'm going to let this college

  • thing go and I only had one credit short.

  • But, my father, from that time on and for years after,

  • was always on my case, because I did not graduate.

  • He'd say, "Oprah Gail" that's my middle name "I don't

  • know what you're gonna do without that degree."

  • And I'd say, "But, Dad, I have my own television show."

  • And he'd say, "Well,

  • I still don't know what you're going to do without that degree."

  • And I'd say, "But, Dad, now I'm a talk show host."

  • He'd say, "I don't know how you're going

  • to get another job without that degree."

  • So, in 1987, Tennessee State University invited

  • me back to speak at their commencement.

  • By then, I had my own show, was nationally syndicated.

  • I'd made a movie, had been nominated for

  • an Oscar and founded my company, Harpo.

  • But I told them, I cannot come and give a

  • speech unless I can earn one more credit,

  • because my dad's still saying I'm not going

  • to get anywhere without that degree.

  • So, I finished my coursework,

  • I turned in my final paper and I got the degree.

  • And my dad was very proud.

  • And I know that, if anything happens,

  • that one credit will be my salvation.

  • But I also know why my dad was insisting on that diploma,

  • because, as B. B. King put it,

  • "The beautiful thing about learning is that

  • nobody can take that away from you."

  • And learning is really in the broadest

  • sense what I want to talk about today,

  • because your education, of course, isn't ending here.

  • In many ways, it's only just begun.

  • The world has so many lessons to teach you.

  • I consider the world,

  • this Earth, to be like a school and our life the classrooms.

  • And sometimes here in this Planet Earth school the lessons

  • often come dressed up as detours or roadblocks.

  • And sometimes as full-blown crises.

  • And the secret I've learned to getting

  • ahead is being open to the lessons,

  • lessons from the grandest university of all,

  • that is, the universe itself.

  • It's being able to walk through life eager and open to self-improvement

  • and that which is going to best help you evolve,

  • 'cause that's really why we're here, to evolve as human beings.

  • To grow into more of ourselves,

  • always moving to the next level of understanding,

  • the next level of compassion and growth.

  • I think about one of the greatest compliments I've ever received: I interviewed

  • with a reporter when I was first starting out in Chicago.

  • And then many years later, I saw the same reporter.

  • And she said to me, "You know what? You really haven't

  • changed. You've just become more of yourself."

  • And that is really what we're all trying to do,

  • become more of ourselves.

  • And I believe that there's a lesson in almost

  • everything that you do and every experience,

  • and getting the lesson is how you move forward.

  • It's how you enrich your spirit.

  • And, trust me, I know that inner wisdom is more precious than wealth.

  • The more you spend it, the more you gain.

  • So, today, I just want to share a few lessonsmeaning

  • threethat I've learned in my journey so far. And aren't you glad?

  • Don't you hate it when somebody says, "I'm going to share a few,"

  • and it's 10 lessons later?

  • And, you're like, "Listen,

  • this is my graduation. This is not about you."

  • So, it's only going to be three.

  • The three lessons that have had the greatest

  • impact on my life have to do with feelings,

  • with failure and with finding happiness.

  • A year after I left college, I was given the opportunity to co-anchor

  • the 6 o'clock news in Baltimore,

  • because the whole goal in the media at the time I was

  • coming up was you try to move to larger markets.

  • And Baltimore was a much larger market than Nashville.

  • So, getting the 6 o'clock news co-anchor

  • job at 22 was such a big deal.

  • It felt like the biggest deal in the world at the time.

  • And I was so proud, because I was finally going

  • to have my chance to be like Barbara Walters,

  • which is who I had been trying to emulate

  • since the start of my TV career.

  • So, I was 22 years old, making $22,000 a year.

  • And it's where I met my best friend,

  • Gayle, who was an intern at the same TV station.

  • And once we became friends, we'd say,

  • "Ohmigod, I can't believe it! You're making $22,000

  • and you're only 22. Imagine when you're

  • 40 and you're making $40,000!"

  • When I turned 40, I was so glad that didn't happen.

  • So, here I am, 22, making $22,000

  • a year and, yet, it didn't feel right. It didn't feel right.

  • The first sign, as President Hennessy was saying,

  • was when they tried to change my name.

  • The news director said to me at the time,

  • "Nobody's going to remember Oprah. So,

  • we want to change your name. We've come up with

  • a name we think that people will remember and people

  • will like. It's a friendly name: Suzie."

  • Hi, Suzie. Very friendly. You can't be angry with Suzie.

  • Remember Suzie. But my name wasn't Suzie.

  • And, you know, I'd grown up not really loving my name,

  • because when you're looking for your little name

  • on the lunch boxes and the license plate tags,

  • you're never going to find Oprah.

  • So, I grew up not loving the name, but once I was asked to change it,

  • I thought, well, it is my name and do I look like a Suzie to you?

  • So, I thought, no, it doesn't feel right.

  • I'm not going to change my name.

  • And if people remember it or not, that's OK.

  • And then they said they didn't like the way I looked.

  • This was in 1976, when your boss could call you in and say,

  • "I don't like the way you look."

  • Now that would be called a lawsuit,

  • but back then they could just say, "I don't like the way you look."

  • Which, in case some of you in the back,

  • if you can't tell, is nothing like Barbara Walters.

  • So, they sent me to a salon where they gave me a perm,

  • and after a few days all my hair fell out and I had to shave my head.

  • And then they really didn't like the way I looked.

  • Because now I am black and bald and sitting on TV.

  • Not a pretty picture.

  • But even worse than being bald, I really hated, hated,

  • hated being sent to report on other people's

  • tragedies as a part of my daily duty,

  • knowing that I was just expected to observe,

  • when everything in my instinct told

  • me that I should be doing something, I should be lending a hand.

  • So, as President Hennessy said,

  • I'd cover a fire and then I'd go back and

  • I'd try to give the victims blankets.

  • And I wouldn't be able to sleep at night because

  • of all the things I was covering during the day.

  • And, meanwhile, I was trying to sit gracefully

  • like Barbara and make myself talk like Barbara.

  • And I thought, well, I could make a pretty goofy Barbara.

  • And if I could figure out how to be myself,

  • I could be a pretty good Oprah.

  • I was trying to sound elegant like Barbara.

  • And sometimes I didn't read my copy,

  • because something inside me said, this should be spontaneous.

  • So, I wanted to get the news as I was giving it to the people.

  • So, sometimes, I wouldn't read my copy and it would be,

  • like, six people on a pileup on I-40. Oh, my goodness.

  • And sometimes I wouldn't read the copybecause I

  • wanted to be spontaneousand I'd come across a list

  • of words I didn't know and I'd mispronounce.

  • And one day I was reading copy and I called Canada "ca nada."

  • And I decided, this Barbara thing's not going too well.

  • I should try being myself.

  • But at the same time, my dad was saying,

  • "Oprah Gail, this is an opportunity of

  • a lifetime. You better keep that job."

  • And my boss was saying, "This is the nightly news. You're an anchor,

  • not a social worker. Just do your job."

  • So, I was juggling these messages of expectation and

  • obligation and feeling really miserable with myself.

  • I'd go home at night and fill up my journals,

  • 'cause I've kept a journal since I was

  • 15so I now have volumes of journals.

  • So, I'd go home at night and fill up my journals

  • about how miserable I was and frustrated.

  • Then I'd eat my anxiety. That's where I learned that habit.

  • And after eight months, I lost that job.

  • They said I was too emotional. I was too much.

  • But since they didn't want to pay out the contract,

  • they put me on a talk show in Baltimore.

  • And the moment I sat down on that show,

  • the moment I did, I felt like I'd come home.

  • I realized that TV could be more than just a playground,

  • but a platform for service,

  • for helping other people lift their lives.

  • And the moment I sat down, doing that talk show,

  • it felt like breathing. It felt right.

  • And that's where everything that followed for me began.

  • And I got that lesson.

  • When you're doing the work you're meant to do,

  • it feels right and every day is a bonus,

  • regardless of what you're getting paid.

  • It's true. And how do you know when you're doing something right?

  • How do you know that? It feels so.