Takeaways from Oprah’s 2016 Commencement Address

Takeaways from Oprah’s 2016 Commencement Address

Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey honored one of the “most important promises” of her life. During Johnson C. Smith University’s (JCSU) commencement ceremony in North Carolina, she offered thousands of eager graduates words of wisdom via a rousing speech.


“Nothing would keep me from being here to celebrate the promise that I made to Nelson Mandela and two of my Leadership Academy students over 10 years ago,” Winfrey said. It’s safe to say that she delivered.  Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Oprah’s commencement address that every graduate should hear:


1. “Every stumble is not a fall, and every fall does not mean failure.”

In a success obsessed social media driven world, it’s extremely easy for our new graduates to feel as as if today’s mistakes will doom their tomorrow. Oprah’s reassuring words hit home with not only the students, but anyone who’s allowed their missteps to determine their direction.

2. “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism and sexism.”

When Oprah addressed the JCSU students about excellence,  she made sure to approach with true authenticity by bringing attention to issues that the young people would encounter in the work force.

Referencing a quote by Rev. Jesse Jackson’s that she said changed her life when she heard it at just 16 years old, she let the students in on her key to success. 

“From that day forward, that became my mantra, and I’ve tried in everything I do to be excellent,” Winfrey said. “ ‘Cause even if you flippin’ fries at McDonald’s, if you are excellent, everybody wants to be in your line. Whatever you do that is excellent, people notice you, and they talk about you, and they say, ‘Did you see that girl over there?’ “.

3. “Go with God.”

In true Oprah fashion, her speech included not only tips for professional wellness, but spiritual as well.

“Prepare yourself for what you’re going to do, how you will ‘get still’ (she’d earlier defined that, essentially, as stop, listen, find clarity, seek answers from God) and know the next right move when the mistake happens. Because being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.”


MADE by Jasmine Browley

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