Oprah Says We Are The Solution To Our World’s Problems — And In The Best Way

Oprah USC graduation speech


Honestly, we can’t think of a more inspiring speaker than Oprah Winfrey. And it’s not because she’s wildly successful (which she obviously is) — it’s because she’s real and grounded, and can see through this cloudy mess of a society we’ve created to enlighten those of us who still have a lot of life left to live.

Graduating students from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism were lucky enough to host Oprah as their commencement speaker on Friday, May 11, but we can all benefit from the words of wisdom she shared with them.

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She started off by painting a picture of how our world, especially in the communications realm, appears today.

“Everything around us, including—and in particular the internet and social media—is now being used to erode trust in our institutions, interfere in our elections, and wreak havoc on our infrastructure,” she said. “It hands advertisers a map to our deepest desires, it enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short and false stories from phony sites to run circles around major news outlets. We have literally walked into traffic while staring at our phones.”

Woof. Sounds pretty dire… until she flips the script on us.

“The good news is that there really is a solution,” she said. “And the solution is each and every one of you. Because you will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, with the insight and the facts necessary to strike down deceit… If you can just capture the humanity of the people of the stories you’re telling, you then get that much closer to your own humanity. And you can confront your bias and you can build your credibility and hone your instincts and compound your compassion. You can use your gifts, that’s what you’re really here to do, to illuminate the darkness in our world.”

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For those of you wondering how exactly to become this solution of which Oprah speaks, her answer is pretty straightforward.

“You make the choice every day, every single day, to exemplify honesty because the truth, let me tell you something about the truth, the truth exonerates and it convicts. It disinfects and it galvanizes. The truth has always been and will always be our shield against corruption, our shield against greed and despair… Be the truth.”

She acknowledges that none of this advice is new to our world. Instead, it’s a collection of much-needed reminders of lessons many of us have already learned in the past, but have lost sight of along the way. We have to tune back into these roots, these morals and these ethics and allow that foundation to guide us forward.

“The question is: What are you willing to stand for? That question is going to follow you throughout your life,” Oprah said. “And here’s how you answer it. You put your honor where your mouth is. Put your honor where your mouth is. When you give your word, keep it. Show up. Do the work. Get your hands dirty. And then you’ll begin to draw strength from the understanding that history is still being written. You’re writing it every day.”

Well, there you have it, folks. Whether you’re 22 or 72 years old, you have the ability to make these choices in life that guide you toward the truth, toward solutions and toward a better world. It’s all in your hands.

In the wonderful words of Oprah, “This moment in time, this is your time to rise.” So take advantage of it while it’s here.

View the full transcript of Oprah’s commencement speech here.


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