Oprah’s Tearful Speech at Power of Women

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All right
oh hey yummy thank you
thanks Yves that was so good you know
all those years 25 years of doing the
Oprah show and going into work at 5:30
in the morning in the makeup chair by
6:30 and literally crawling home at
night for 25 years I used to wonder what
the ladies who lunch were doing really I
was attracted to like paintings of women
lunching and and so this is what it’s
like but even better this is an
empowerment lunch you know I changed how
I viewed power about 1989 there was a
book I read by a man named Gary Zhukov
called cedar the soul and in Cu the soul
he defined what is true power what is
authentic power and and his definition
of authentic power meaning the kind of
power that can never be taken from you
not your looks
not your fame not your money not your
square footage but authentic power is
when the personality your personality
comes to serve the energy of your soul
when you are able to align who you are
who you’ve become in the world with
really what you’ve come to do in the
world when your personality serves the
soul so I thought a lot about that that
book was actually life-changing for me
and I was building a home in Santa
Barbara and as anybody who’s ever built
a bathroom or a home or anything nothing
ever happens on time and it was 2002 and
we’re supposed to be finished and it
wasn’t finished and I was like I can’t
wait to get in my house and I’m finally
gonna have a great Christmas and I’m
going to do the kind of Christmas that I
dreamed of from The Courier and
you know cards I’m gonna have the reeds
on the door and but I didn’t have a
floor so it’s a little difficult to do
that so I started to think if I can’t do
that Christmas well what am I gonna do
for Christmas my house isn’t even ready
and what can I do so I started as I was
walking around through the trees sitting
under that tree because my favorite time
is to be alone with my thoughts and as I
was alone with my thoughts I was
thinking what would be the next best
possible Christmas for myself and I
thought of the best Christmas I ever had
the best Christmas I ever had was when I
was 12 years old my mother was on
welfare I was living with my mother and
half brother and sister in Milwaukee and
my mother called me the oldest to say
into a room to say we won’t be having
Christmas this year I said we won’t be
having Christmas what about Santa Claus
there is no Santa Claus
I had already figured that out but okay
I was embarrassed and I was ashamed
because for the first time I had to face
the reality that yeah what I’ve been
suspecting that we’re not like the other
kids that we really are poor is true so
we’re not gonna have Christmas and there
is no Santa Claus
my first thought after being embarrassed
at a shamed was what will my story be
what am I going to tell everybody when
we go back to school and they’re showing
their toys and I don’t have anything to
talk about what am I gonna do I’m not
gonna go outside tomorrow when everybody
is out in the yards in their yards
showing the toys they got for Christmas
I’m gonna stay inside
am I gonna pretend I’m sick what is my
story going to be well late that night
some nuns showed up at our house and
they brought a basket of food and they
brought toys for my my brother and my
sister and I was overwhelmed with joy
but those nuns showed up not because
they brought me a Tammy doll when I
really wanted a Barbie though
I was overwhelmed because somebody
remembered that we existed and somebody
cared enough in the middle of the night
to come to our house with food and toys
and also I would now have a story so as
I was contemplating what is the that was
the best Christmas I ever had I thought
how could I make that possible for
somebody else what could I do to create
the same kind of experience for other
children so I took 50 members of my team
at Harpo Harriett one of them sherry the
table and hired another 50 people in
South Africa and we went to South Africa
with the idea of creating something that
we ended up doing a documentary about
called Christmas kindness Christmas
kindness using my personality to serve
the energy of my soul so we went from
village to village offering toys and
clothes food soccer boy soccer balls to
children who never experienced Christmas
before and early in the morning you
could see them lining up by the
thousands to come and we actually went
to 10 or 12 villages to do this and
people said to me at the time oh that’s
so frivolous and the kids won’t remember
it and why don’t you use your money to
do something else more substantial Oprah
and I said they may not remember the toy
they may not remember the clothes
although they were most excited the
children to open boxes containing
clothes because as their caretaker said
to us having new clothes made them not
feel poor and for so many of these kids
was the first time they’d ever
experienced having something that was
new for them they may not remember what
they got in the box
but they will remember that somebody
remembered them they will remember the
experience so during this entire
experience Nelson Mandela had invited
Steadman and I to stay at his home
so when Nelson mendelian by true you
stay
and I was so nervous I was like oh my
god what am I going to talk to because
it’s ten days it’s ten days it’s not
just a dinner it’s not alleged ten days
it’s ten days breakfast lunch and dinner
with Nelson Mandela what am I gonna say
Stedman said why don’t you try listening
[Applause]
so I did I had 29 meals with Nelson
Mandela at first really really really I
was very you know like Nelson Mandela
and by the third or fourth day he and I
were to sit together in his living room
sharing the paper at the end of the day
talking about events in the world and
one of the things we came to talk about
the most was the power of Education to
overcome poverty so in one of those
lucid moments I said to him well you
know I’ve always wanted to build a
school he said you want to build a
school Oh brah
you want to build a school he got up and
made a phone call to the Ministry of
Education wasn’t planning on building it
then but all right the Minister of
Education comes over later in the day
and we start the process of building a
school the reason why I wanted to build
a school because I tried different
things because I always knew even before
I could articulate that my personality
needs to serve my soul I always knew
that to whom much is given as the Bible
says much is expected much is not just
expected much is required so from the
first time I came to Chicago and started
to make more money than I needed to
actually pay my bills I reached out and
was going to form a sister group trying
to help young girls in the project and I
discovered I wasn’t able to do what I
really needed to change the trajectory
of those girls lives because
every girl that we would take out of the
project and spend time with on the
weekends my producers and I they would
have to go back home into the same
environment and it was impossible to
just change the way they saw themselves
in the world
so by trial and error I knew that in
order to literally change the way a girl
sees herself I would need enough time to
spend with her to be able to hire the
right kind of teachers a right kind of
administration to be surrounded by an
urging in nurturing environment to allow
that girl to change the way she felt
about herself and saw herself in the
world so the idea of creating a boarding
school that was surrounded by beauty the
kind of school that I would want to go
to and I tell you when I first sat down
with the architects and said I want to
build a great to school a great school
for leaders that will change the lives
women and they will be able to break the
cycle of poverty for themselves and
their families forever and become a part
of the real and true new and free South
Africa well the architects said to me
well these are poor girls these girls
these girls I said well where the
closets where the where’s the space
where’s the drama where’s the theater
and they said with these of poor girls
these girls really don’t come from
families with clothes and a lot of them
have lost their families and I said but
they will have clothes and they will be
able to do drama and they will be able
to excel beyond anybody’s dreams and
that is exactly what has happened five
years later
[Applause]
as Ava mentioned as Ava mentioned we are
now approaching I’ll go over at the end
of November and we have our fifth
graduating class this coming June
forty-three girls graduating in South
Africa I have seven in the United States
graduating I have twenty girls in the
United States one of them shidae is here
today
stand up shut egg say hi
this young woman who’s now a junior at
Stanford I met when she was 12 years old
and I did the interview and said tell me
why you wanted a cup do you want to come
to the school and she says I really want
to come I really really want to come a
dozen realease and and she is done
magnificent work throughout seventh
grade eighth grade tenth grade 12th
grade and from the moment my goddaughter
Kirby who’s also here today who’s Gail’s
daughter came to speak to the girls at
the school Kirby was attending Stanford
and from the moment Shaddai heard Kirby
speak about Stanford she said that she
knew that those were her people and so
we went to Stanford and looked at the
campus she said mom oh these are my
peeps these are my peeps so this is what
I know that being here today and hearing
from Susan and Gwyneth and Selma and
Rebecca and Jim and Anna and all of us
it’s a really good thing but I have
always known this about celebrity the
real power of being somebody that
somebody knows and I really think that
the only difference between being famous
and not is that more people know your
name so the only difference between
understanding that is understanding that
what Selma has done what susan has done
what anna has done rebecca has done what
Jim has done what I’ve done you too can
do because true philanthropy comes from
living from the heart of yourself and
giving what you have been given how will
you do that how will you use your
personality the energy of your
personality to serve that which is your
soul’s calling I know this for sure any
life no matter how fantastic it is how
glorious it seems how much attention you
receive how much square footage you have
any life and every life is enhanced by
the sharing and the giving and the
opening up of the heart space your life
gets better when you can find a way to
share it with someone else so what we’ve
done you can do the real empowerment
comes when every person leaves this room
and makes a decision makes a decision
maybe that decision is that you will
write a check and support some of the
wonderful organizations you’ve heard
here today but the true decision is how
will you use yourself how will you use
everything that you have been given to
serve that which is greater than
yourself how will you use that to become
truly authentically empowered now it is
a beautiful thing to receive an award
and to be on the cover of a variety
thank you very much it’s a beautiful
thing but the true reward is in the
lives that you are able to touch and the
people who you know you have impacted my
beloved mentor teacher friend mother
Maya Angelou passed away last year and I
remember when I opened the school I was
so happy that finally it happened we got
it done and went got through all the
bureaucracy and all the stuff that it
takes to build a school from the ground
up and I said to Maya oh my god Maya
this is gonna be Mike this is going this
is my legacy and Maya said you have no
idea you have no idea what your legacy
is your legacy is every life you have
touched your legacy is every person you
have met whose influence was felt by you
every single person so she said it’s
every person who’s ever watched a show
and decided that they were going to go
back to school
or watch the show and decided that I’m
going to leave my husband I’m going to
not no longer be a victim of abuse every
person who watched a show and said I am
a victim of abuse and because I saw this
I now can stand up for myself every
person who gained a voice because of you
you have no idea what your legacy is
your legacy is every life that you touch
and so as you leave here today the
decision is whose lives will that be how
will you use yourself in such a way that
your impact in your legacy will live
beyond the doing so the great reward for
me is knowing that what I’m doing in and
how I’ve done it and how I choose to
live in the space that I call God how in
God I move and breathe and have my being
and I try to move from the center of
that is able to literally touch the
lives of other people I said to the
girls when they first came to the school
we found them in villages and we found
them in townships we went out some kids
were having school in a boxcar on a
railroad track and some under a tree and
I said to the girls the trajectory of
your life is about to change and I only
ask one thing of you is that you give as
much of yourself as I and this school is
willing to give to you and Becky Sikes
was a head of our foundation and spend
so much
stand up Becky it’s been so much time
with the girls and vouch for this
and so this is the true reward I just
wanted to share this with you when am I
should a is here because she’s the only
one of the 20 girls who are in school in
the United States in school from the
girls range from Brown Mount Holyoke
Wellesley Johnson C Smith spell Spellman
Colorado Oregon Stanford she’s the only
one had Friday’s off so I said everybody
not getting out of class to come to
variety no but June of this year I mean
so the girls are out in the world we’ve
done this thing that Susan was talking
about touching the lives of girls and
when you when you when you change a
girl’s life you don’t just change a
girl’s life you change the communities
like you change a family’s life because
what girls do is they take it back home
they take it to their families they take
it to their communities so my girls are
all over the country and internships and
working and doing multiple things during
the summer months and one of my
daughters I call them my daughters a
Vakeel a who’s at Colorado College was
working and went back to Cape Town to
work in Cape Town this summer and she’d
always wanted to be a doctor at plan to
major in medicine in this summer made
the decision that she was going to
switch to public health so when they
leave I always say just just keeping
just let me know just send a text you
don’t even have to say you arrived just
send it emoji emoji hello I’m here but
she wrote me this amazing letter that
will be something I treasure forever I
just wanted to share a bit of it with
you today she wrote this on June 11th
after having arrived in Cape Town
and being in a house with all of these
students from different parts of the
world she writes this is a girl who we
found who would have had a very
different life but she writes the other
day we were all sitting around table and
began to have a heated passionate
respectful and compassionate and most
important fulfilled fulfilling
discussion about what we want our own
country and our nation to be what we
should be doing as the youth of this
country to make it better for the first
time I really believe I have hope for a
better future we talked about what male
privilege means what white privilege
means and the chains of victimization oh
my mom oh it was challenging yet so
insightful
it felt good to know that I could share
my opinion with a group of only guys and
no but if my opinion was disagreed upon
it was solely because of the quality of
my opinion and not because I’m a girl
I’m finding myself being able to let go
and be me without fear of what the next
person thinks when I think I could go
deep with someone I do and most of the
time it turns out that person was also
seeking the same thing I’m learning I’m
making mistakes I’m laughing I’m
deciding I’m asking and I’m questioning
and I’m also growing and I have to tell
you I am filled with gratitude so much
gratitude that I can see the sights that
I can see and meet the people I have met
and continued to be favored by God
that’s the true reward thank you
you

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