By William T. Robinson Jr.
Oprah Winfrey ,the media mogul , former talk show host, television producer, bestselling author, accredited actress, and philanthropist, graced her alma mater, Tennessee State
University May 6th 2023, as the commencement speaker. There is not enough paper to mention all the awards and accolades that have been bestowed upon her, because her accomplishments and humanity knows no bounds.
Her return as commencement speaker eliminated any thoughts from those who love her dearly that she had forgotten about TSU, who holds her in the highest esteem. Her presence was likened to a homecoming or adding the icing on a freshly baked cake.
Oprah cannot begin to imagine how much she is loved and respected by TSU and Nashville, especially the Black community. Many would argue that she is probably Nashville’s biggest export, showing the world what true excellence and achievement looks like. She represents the highest epitome of what a graduate of a HBCU can be. Her influence nationally and internationally is legendary, and when Oprah speaks, everyone listens. While extremely humble and down to earth, she is a no nonsense person prompting our youth to be the best they can be, regardless of their situation.
She is not one manifesting exaggerated rhetoric, but one of action and example that speaks for itself. She resonates hope, hard work, and belief in oneself that cannot be compromised or diluted by naysayers or haters. She has shown herself to be unapologetically Black, showing deference to those who paved the way and whose shoulders we as African Americans stand on.
Oprah’s message to the graduating class was one of being true to oneself and not letting fear hold you as a prisoner from accomplishing your goals. She warned against being an imposter to what you truly are meant to be, emphasizing embracing hope over fear. She dared the graduates to dream big and follow the spiritual voice within as a guide that is needed to navigate through this challenging world with its plethora of controversial issues.
She emphasized practicing love and empathy and manifesting it daily in your life. She emphatically attributed her success to listening to her inner voice and God’s grace. She reminded the students that those who came before had paid their debt and they needed to be successful to show their appreciation.
Oprah personally praised the two Tennessee African American lawmakers- Justin Jones, and Justin n Pearson for upholding the legacy of giants like John Lewis by using their lives to prove the cynics wrong. She was alluding that is going to be up to the youth following their inner voices to bring about the changes necessary to bring about much needed change.
Oprah’s speech was not just for the graduating class, but inspirational and motivating for all those in attendance. She offered wisdom, hope, motivation, and guidance- sprinkled with penetrating love. It would be hard to imagine a better role model for our Black youth, especially Black girls, looking for a positive example to emulate. She debunks all the negative stereotypes falsely attributed to African Americans, truly showing us what a real diamond looks like.
Words cannot come close to describing what Oprah means to African Americans as a beautiful, intelligent, spiritual, highly profiled, benevolent Black woman, making a monumental difference in aspiring others and making this world a better place. And yes!
Undoubtedly, this world is a better place because of Oprah, showing us that one person can make a difference. Her spirit- driven benevolence and philanthropy has made a difference in countless lives and should serve as an example for many of her wealthy peers.
TSU and other HBCUs would like to thank Oprah for showing the world what excellence look like. She exemplifies the importance of why HBCUs are so necessary. HBCUs are institution that has help catapult its students to learn their true history, love for themselves and others, aim for excellence, and an unprecedented challenge and goal to go serve and give back to their communities.
A point to remember: In light of Tennessee’s majority led Republican legislature attack on TSU, an attack against TSU is an attack against its alumni like Oprah Winfrey and its other luminous graduates and they have teeth and can bite if necessary.