by Kenya King
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Only Oprah Winfrey, the "Queen of Talk," can breathe life into time-worn clichés and make them as authentic and delectable as grandma's home-cooked meal. Oprah served up a dose of confidence-boosting oratory, telling the more than 500 Spelman graduates to "put your crown on your head and wear it" at the college's 125th commencement Ceremony.
"It's already paid for," she said. "Paid for by the blood, from the lynching, the tears and the sweat. From the toil and the trails and the sorrows, from the burdens and the weariness. Paid for by the sit-in and by the setbacks....Even though they hadn't experienced it or tasted freedom, they knew they were planting seeds of freedom that would bear the fruit that is now you. This is their day as well," said Winfrey.
In knowing the graduates reflected an image of herself, Oprah prayed long and hard, she admitted, about what she would say that day. "You represent who I am, who I have been and who I can be in the world," said Winfrey.
At the commencement, Winfrey was also awarded Spelman's Board of Trustees National Community Service Award for the millions of dollars she has given toward education with her Angel Network and Oprah Winfrey Scholars program. Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith and HIV/AIDS educator Dazon Dixon Diallo both received honorary degrees from Spelman for their community work and accomplishments.
The graduates anxiously listened to Winfrey's refreshing delineations of the proverbs "know thy self" and "do the right thing. Winfrey described herself as a vessel to espouse words of wisdom from lessons learned, and said she hopes that "when the times get tough," the students will recall her words.
Winfrey outlined how to always be an "unforgettable woman." She said, "What I recognize now is it is my choice to in every way, in every example, in every experience to do the right thing and the excellent thing, is what has created a brand."
Winfrey stressed that three important decisions would carry the students for a lifetime: the decision to know oneself, to serve and to do what's right.
"You must have some kind of vision for your life even if you don't know the plan. You want to be in the driver seat," said Winfrey. Most importantly, she said, being famous fades in time, and that the significance one brings to service is lasting. "In three years you won't be able to name the 'Housewives of Atlanta,'" she joked.
Oprah Winfrey even brought Celie from "The Color Purple" with her to make her point about doing the right thing and not toiling over getting revenge on those who wronged you. In the voice of Celie, "everything you even try to do to me, already done to you," said Winfrey. "So doing the right thing even when nobody knows you're doing the right thing, always bring the right thing to you, I promise you that. I stand as a witness," she said.
"My life is so blessed, I can't even take it in sometimes. It will lead you to not just a gifted life and rewarding life that fills you up, but a sweet life. That's what you want. You want the sweetness. You want it to be so sweet so that even when the storms come and they will, you'll know – this too shall pass. The storm is passing over and you shall not be moved, because you know who you are."
(Source: Atlanta Daily World, a Real Times Media newspaper.)