“When you are excellent, you are unforgettable,” Winfrey told the 550 graduates of the prestigious all-women’s college in Atlanta. “You become an unforgettable woman.”
Dressed in a cap and gown Winfrey marched into the Georgia International Convention Center alongside professors and honoree recipients. Falling in line behind the institution’s president, Dr. Beverley Tatum, Winfrey approached the stage undetected. The audience erupted into applause once the celebrity was recognized.
Dr. Tatum introduced Winfrey, making note of Winfrey’s first childhood realization: the importance of “doing a little bit extra.”
Winfrey began her speech with a loud “Spelman!” producing cheers and raising the energy level of the crowd. Recording devices went into the air while members of the audience rushed to the front, standing on tip-toe to get a better view.
Winfrey was awarded the Board of Trustees National Community Service Award, adding to her Spelman College honorary degree and National Community Service Award, both received in 1993. Honorary degree recipients included Dazon Dixon Diallo, class of 1986 and advocate for women affected by HIV/AIDS, and Anna Deavere Smith, an actress, playwright, author and professor most recognizable for her role on The West Wing.
Reciting a line from a performance of the Spelman College Glee Club she saw on Saturday afternoon, Winfrey reminded the graduates to be thankful for “the prayers of their grandmothers” and for “the dreams of their grandfathers.” She insisted that all they’ve accomplished was not done on their own, and that each of them is trailing on the “breath of their ancestors.”
Winfrey continued, stating that knowing who you are and determining what you want is the first step to solidifying a life of prosperity. She said that despite her numerous roles, she was “a child of God.”
Winfrey explained the importance of service, making reference to the insignificance of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. “In three years, you won’t know the names of the housewives. Service and the significance which you bring to your service is lasting.”
As an example of service, Winfrey pointed to rapper and multi-million dollar entrepreneur Jay-Z, stating that through his lyrics “he serves people.”
In closing, Winfrey encouraged the students to surround themselves with people who are “accustomed to your success,” because if you don’t, people who aren’t accustomed will fear your success.