Oprah Winfrey delivered an impassioned commencement address at Agnes Scott College – one of the metro Atlanta locations where her HBO movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” filmed – Saturday morning. After a roaring welcome from the Class of 2017 she delighted graduates and their families with an address that combined humor, candor and inspiration. (Scroll to the bottom for a live-stream of the exercises).
“You’re nothing if you’re not the truth,” Winfrey said. “I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life – I’ve made a fortune, really – all good! – from being true to myself. If I can leave you with any message today: The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good, you can get a lot of great shoes! Those of you who have a lot of shoes know having a closet full of shoes doesn’t fill up your life. Living a life of substance can. Substance through your service.”
Agnes Scott president Elizabeth Kiss introduced the school’s much anticipated speaker after warm remarks to the new alumnae.
“I cannot think of a more perfect commencement speaker, for Agnes Scott, for this class and for this moment in history than global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress Oprah Winfrey. From a difficult and abusive childhood she has proven that with faith, strength and the courage of a lion, your dreams are not out of reach.
“She is a trailblazer in so many ways,” Kiss continued. “In 2013 Oprah Winfrey was awarded a very well deserved Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. There’s really nothing she can’t do. Maybe, just maybe, she will run for president.”
While Winfrey didn’t speak of any political ambitions, she did note the gathering she hosted in the weeks following the 2016 election, bringing together a group of women who had supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and those who voted for President Donald Trump.
“Nobody wanted to come to breakfast. After two and a half hours I had those women not only eating croissants but sitting around the table listening to each other’s struggles, hearing both sides and by the end they were holding hands and exchanging emails and phone numbers,” she said. “It’s possible. It can happen. I want you to work in your own way to change the world in respectful conversations with others.”
“I want you to enter every situation aware of its context, open to hear the truth of others and most important, open to letting the process of changing the world change you,” she said. “That is the spirit of constructive engagement.”
Winfrey spends a good bit of time in Atlanta. In addition to “Henrietta Lacks,” her OWN show “Greenleaf” films here, as did “Selma,” directed by her close friend and frequent artistic partner Ava DuVernay. Winfrey served as a producer for and played a role in “Selma.”
The event is being live-streamed: