During her commencement speech at the University of Southern California, Oprah Winfrey left students with a number of powerful things to consider. Here are five things we took in from the famous talk show host’s speech.
We must practice common decency
“Don’t ever confuse what is legal with what is moral, because they are entirely different animals. In life, you’re either principled or not – so do the right thing, especially when no one is looking”, Oprah said. She then reminded the crowd to avoid making comparisons. “Stop comparing yourself to other people. You’re only on this planet to be you, not someone else’s imitation of you”.
If we are going to create real change, everyone is needed
Oprah told the crowd of graduates that they were ones who would shape the future. “You can use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in our world. This is your time to rise. It is.” She then addressed a number of issues in society that demand change. “Pick a problem, any problem – the list is long, beginning with this”, she said. “Gun violence, climate change, systemic racism, economic inequality, media bias, the homeless need opportunity, the addicted need treatment, the dreamers need protection, the prison system needs reforming, the LGBTQ community needs acceptance, the social safety net needs saving and the misogyny needs to stop.”
Don’t forget the bigger picture
“If you’re fighting with someone you really love, for God’s sakes find your way back to them because life is short, even on our longest days.”
But also appreciate the little things
Taking a lighter tone, Oprah offered the graduates a few pieces of general life advice. “Eat a good breakfast – it really pays off. Pay your bills on time. Recycle. Make your bed. Aim high. Say thank you to people and actually really mean it. Ask for help when you need it. And put your phone away at the dinner table!” she joked. “Be nice to little kids, be nice to your elders, be nice to animals and know that it’s better to be interested than interesting. Invest in a quality mattress,” she continued. “I’m telling you – your back will thank you later. And don’t cheap out on your shoes.”
Being truthful is imperative
“Use what you’ve learned to challenge the left, to challenge the right, and the centre”, Oprah advised. “Make the choice every single day to exemplify honesty, because the truth exonerates and it convicts. It disinfects, and it galvanises. The truth has always been and will always be our shield against corruption, our shield against despair… Be the truth.” She added that: “We need to take a stand for our right to have hope. We need to take a stand with every ounce of wit and courage we can muster. The question is: what are you willing to stand for?” She said. “That question is going to follow you through your life. And here’s how you answer it: you put your honour where your mouth is. When you give your word, keep it. Show up. Do the work. Get your hands dirty.”