Oprah Winfrey’s University Speech
Oprah Winfrey’s Speech at Howard University 2007- Unofficial Transcript
Transcription by Nadiya Shah
I came across Oprah’s speech on Youtube and forwarded it to my friends. It got such a positive response, and had such a positive effect, on others and myself. I tried to find the transcript online with no luck. So I decided to transcribe it myself and offer it here. I hope you find value in these words.
These words are exactly what I need as I head of to graduate school on another continent!
It’s important to note that this is a completely unofficial transcription. This is me typing away as I listen to her words. If you would like to see a clip of her speech, scroll down this page to watch it.
What a deep honor for me to be here today for me…you can receive a lot of awards in your life, but there is nothing better (choked up), there is nothing better than to be honored by your own.
Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be calling myself Dr. Winfrey on Monday Morning.
Let me just say that everyone I know who’s ever graduated from here, and that’s a lot of ya’all, told me “just wait till you get there, just wait till you get there”, they said to me “you gonna feel the love.” And Howard I am feeling you today….
(They said) “You’ve got to come to Howard. Howard is the bomb… It is our pride, it is a mighty force, you just have to experience it girl…Once you come, its gonna feel like family reunion, and you’re going to want to come again and again”…
I am really so glad I did because I get to see you all. I get to witness and welcome you all to the beginning of you’re new and fantastic life ahead, if you choose it to be so. And I know that it is there for the choosing because there is nobody more nurtured and prepared to lead us into an exemplary future than the Howard University graduating class of 2007.
I can say that nobody knows for sure where you will go in your life, what impact you will have on others but each one of us may have a better chance than most because You all have spent 4 years responding to the nurturing, which is the truest meaning of teaching. You’ve sat in your different classes, you’ve tested, you’ve done your reports, you’ve turned in your exams and you deserve to be here today.
And after all the partying is over, and I know there will be some partying up in here, the anxiety may start to creep in. What do you now do with all this education?
I am here to tell you today- don’t worry, don’t worry about it. Relax. Take a breath; you’re in really good hands, because God’s got your back.
All you need to do is know who you are, and I know you know who you are. Because I have as a part of my Harpo production team two former graduates of Howard…and all the way here they were telling me that ”when you leave Howard one thing you know for sure is who you are, because Howard teaches you to define yourself by your own terms and not by somebody else’s definition”.
So here are a few things I want you to know that I know for sure.
Don’t be afraid. All you have to know is who you are.
Because there is no such thing as failure. There is no such thing as failure. What other people label or might try to call failure, I have learned, is just God’s way of pointing you in new direction.
So its true, you may take several paths that end up on what might be a dead end for you at the moment. But this is what I also know for sure, you must trust in the words of my favorite Bible verse that say: “And know that the lord may lead you to a rock that is higher than thou.”
Everyone one us has a calling.
There’s a reason why you are here.
I know this for sure.
And that reason is greater than any degree, it’s greater than any paycheck, and it’s greater than anything anybody can tell you that you’re supposed to do.
Your real job is to find out what the reason is and get about the business of doing it.
Your calling isn’t something that somebody can tell you about, its what you feel. It is a part of your life force, it is the thing that gives you juice. The thing that you’re supposed to do, and nobody can tell you what that is. You know it inside yourself.
You know, I come from good stock. …My grandmother, who had a dream for me, and her dream was not a big dream… she used to say…”One day I want you to grow up and get yourself some good white folks.” Because my grandmother was a maid and she worked for white folks her whole life. And her idea of having a big dream was to have white folks who treated her with some dignity, who showed her a little bit respect. And she would say “I hope you get some good white folks, who are kind to you.” and I regret that she didn’t live past 1963 to see that I did grow up and get some really good white folks working for me.
So have no fear, have no fear; God’s got your back.
And sometimes, sometimes you find out what you’re supposed to be doing by doing the things you’re not supposed to do.
So don’t expect the perfect job that defines your life’s works to come along next week. If that happens, take the blessing and run with it, but if not, be grateful to be on the path where you eventually want to live.
Abide in the space of gratitude. Because this is what I know for sure, that only through being grateful for how far you have come in your path can you leave room for more blessings to flow.
Blessings flow in the space of gratitude.
Everything in your life is happening to teach you more about yourself.
So even in a crisis be grateful. When disappointed be grateful. When things aren’t going the way you want them to be grateful that you have sense enough to turn it around.
I spent 8 years in Baltimore. I knew in those years in Baltimore that I was unhappy being a television news reporter. But the voice of my father, who thought he knew what I was supposed to do, was in my head. It said “don’t you give up that job girl. You never gonna to make 25 000 dollars in one year.” That’s my fathers dream for me.
But God can dream a bigger dream than you can dream for yourself.
And So I tried to live in the space of God’s dream.
And the television executives told me, when I was in Baltimore, told me that I was just, that it was just too much. That I was too big, that I was too black. They told me that I was too engaged, that I was too emotional, that I was too, too much for the news and so they put me on a talk show one day just to run out my contract. And that was the beginning of my story.
So I say, even when things are difficult be grateful.
Honor your calling; don’t worry about how successful you will be. Don’t worry about it.
Focus on how significant you can be in service and the success will take care of itself.
And always take a stand for yourself, your values. Your defined by what you stand for. Your integrity is not for sale.
From the very beginning of my career in Baltimore, when I walked in the room, and all the men in the room said to me “you need to change your name because nobody’s is going to remember your name, you need to change your name”. And I said what do you want me to change it to. They said “we think Suzy is a good name. Suzy is a friendly name. Suzy is a name people will remember, people can relate to Suzy” and I said I think I am going to keep my name. If people remember it or not, it is my name.
You have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in.
If I, if I could count the number of times I have been asked to compromise and sell out myself for one reason or another I would be a billionaire 10 times over.
My integrity is not for sale and neither is yours… Do not be a slave to any form of selling out…
I stand here, as a symbol of what is possible when you believe in the dream of your own life…
- Oprah Winfrey