CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech to the graduating class of Johnson C. Smith on Sunday, urging the graduates to have faith in themselves and to remain confident whenever they face setbacks.
She spoke often of her own career and what she had to do to overcome tough times.
She spoke about how she learned the laws of physics and how every action has an equal reaction.
“I know that all the energy I am putting out into the world is coming back to me,” she said.
So she learned that she wanted to make as positive an impact as possible.
“I do nothing without thinking about, ‘What is my true intention?’” she said.
A turning point for her came when she was 16 years old and she heard Jesse Jackson speak.
In the speech, she said, “He said, ‘Excellence is the best deterrent to racism. So be excellent.’
“So from that day forward that became my mantra, and with everything I did I tried to be excellent.”
Winfrey had a special reason for speaking at Johnson C. Smith.
Two of the graduates were Noluthando “Thando” Dlomo and Nompumelelo “Mpumi” Nobiva were graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which Winfrey established in 2007 and invested more than $40 million to educate students in grades seven through 12.
Dlomo, Nobiva and academy mate Andronica Klaas have all flourished in their time at JCSU. Thando is Miss JCSU 2016, and represented the school with honor at the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. Mpumi spoke last semester alongside Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. Andronica, who will graduate in 2017, was among 83 students from across the U.S. tapped to be a White House HBCU All-Star.
Winfrey encouraged the graduates not to be discouraged by setbacks.
“Every stumble is not a fall, and every fall does not mean failure,” she said.