The Most Important Commencement Speeches in 2018: Oprah Winfrey at USC Annenberg

The Greatest Commencement Speeches in History is a weekly column that compiles the most memorable speeches in history with the goal to emphasize on the power of public speaking, to illustrate its importance, impact, and necessity to master.

Today we keep our focus on the inspirational commencement address the famous Oprah Winfrey gave at USC Annenberg. Winfrey encouraged the graduates to seek the truth and to look for solutions of the really important problems. Here are the most important outtakes from her address:

“…there really is a solution. 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. You’re in a position to keep all of those who now disparage real news, you all are the ones that are going to keep those people in check. Why? Because you can push back and you can answer false narratives with real information and you can set the record straight. And you also have the ability and the power to give voice, as Dean Bay was saying, to people who desperately now need to tell their stories and have their stories told.”

“And this is what I do know for sure because I’ve been doing it a long time: 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.”

“We’re supposed to see this moment in time for what it is. We’re supposed to see through it and then transcend it. That is how you overcome hysteria. And that is how you overcome the sniping at one another, the trolling, the mean-spirited partisanship on both sides of the aisle, the divisiveness, the injustices, and the out-and-out hatred. You use it. Use this moment to encourage you, to embolden you, and to literally push you into the rising of your life. And to borrow a phrase from my beloved mentor Maya Angelou: Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, you will rise.”

“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. The truth is our saving grace.”

The question is: What are you willing to stand for? That question is going to follow you throughout your life. 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. The wheels still in spin. And what you do or what you don’t do will be a part of it.”

“A couple other thoughts before I go. Eat a good breakfast. It really pays off. Pay your bills on time. Recycle. Make your bed. Aim high. Say thank you to people and actually really mean it. Ask for help when you need it, and put your phone away at the dinner table. Just sit on it, really. And know that what you tweet and post and Instagram today might be asked about at a job interview tomorrow, or 20 years from tomorrow. Be nice to little kids, be nice to your elders, be nice to animals, and know that it’s better to be interested than interesting. Invest in a quality mattress. I’m telling you, your back will thank you later. And don’t cheap out on your shoes.”

“You need to know this. Your job is not always going to fulfill you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days, you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway, and remember that your job is not who you are, it’s just what you are doing on the way to who you will become. Every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons, because the lessons are always there. And the number one lesson I could offer you where your work is concerned is this: Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.”

“Stop comparing yourself to other people. You’re only on this planet to be you, not someone else’s imitation of you.”

“So I hold you in the light, and I wish you curiosity and confidence. And I wish you ethics and enlightenment. I wish you guts. Every great decision I’ve ever made I trusted my gut. And goodness. I wish you purpose and the passion that goes along with that purpose. And here’s what I really hope: I hope that every one of you contributes to the conversation of our culture and our time. And to some genuine communication, which means, you have to connect to people exactly where they are; not where you are, but where they are. And I hope you shake things up. And when the time comes to bet on yourself, I hope you double down. Bet on yourself.”

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