Oprah Winfrey delivers 2015 “Harry’s Last Lecture” at Stanford University

Stanford University. [APPLAUSE] Thank you and good evening. I am Professor Harry Elam, the
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford. And on behalf of the
president and the provost, I welcome you to tonight’s
very special Rathbun Lecture with our featured
speaker, Miss Oprah Winfrey. [APPLAUSE] Now, I got to tell you that
you’re in for a special treat. She spoke to students
this afternoon, and the generosity, the
commitment, the concern she had in terms
of the issues she spoke about touched
all of us there and will touch you tonight. The Harry and
Amelia Rathbun Fund for Exploring What Leads
to a Meaningful Life was made possible by an
endowment established in 2006 by the Foundation for
Global Community, which was directed by the Rathbuns’
son, Richard Rathbun. “Harry’s Last Lecture,” as it’s
affectionately been called, is the title tonight. And a s someone named Harry,
I think it’s a great name. The Rathbun Fund
supports the mission of the Office of Religious Life
by helping students and others discover and reflect upon
issues of meaning and purpose during their time of potentially
monumental growth in character and spirit here at college. In this day and
age, when students are driven by the
pace of technology and the pressures to
achieve, the increasing concerns over employment
after college, it is all the more important
to have time to reflect, the space to think,
not only about yourself but about the great
world around you. The Rathbun Fund has created
both a timeless and timely opportunity to help
Stanford deepen the student experience with a focus
on thoughtful inquiry, the pursuit of
ethical engagement, and a dedication to making the
world a better place to live. And now to tell you more
about the Rathbun Lecture and to introduce tonight’s
esteemed speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce
the Dean of Religious Life, Dr. Jane Shaw. [APPLAUSE] Welcome to Memorial Church,
this extraordinary sacred space that Jane Stanford put at
the heart of our campus, and welcome to the
2015 Rathbun Lecture. All that we do
here in this space, in the circle, which is
our interfaith space, and at Windhover, our recently
opened contemplation center, is designed to explore
together as a body, as a community what it means
to lead a meaningful life. In our work as the office
for religious life, we encourage members
of this university to explore both
spirituality and religion. We support the working
out of ethical values and we host discussions, arts
events, and of course, worship, all designed to help us think
and practice a meaningful life. The Harry and
Amelia Rathbun Fund for exploring what leads
to such a meaningful life generously supports
much of our work. It was made possible by an
endowment established in 2006 by the Foundation
for Global Community. The centerpiece is this
visiting fellow program, which brings notable,
experienced, and wise people to campus each year. It is our pleasure this evening
to welcome and thank the board members and participants in
the Foundation for Global Community, many of whom
are here with us tonight and some may be
watching at home. And in particular, we warmly
welcome Harry and Amelia’s son, Richard Rathbun, his wife Lacey,
and their two children, Ryan and Milo. We’re so delighted you
could join us tonight. [APPLAUSE] And now, it is my
very great pleasure, and of course, my privilege, to
introduce the Rathbun visiting fellow for 2015, Oprah Winfrey. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS] She has to have a little
more of an introduction than that, because she had
so many accomplishments. She’s known to us
as the talk show host, who changed the very
nature of interviewing on her show The Oprah Winfrey
Show, which ran for 25 years. She’s known to us as
a brilliant actor, who especially starred in
films such as The Color Purple and The Butler. She has Harpo
Productions and produced the extraordinary film, Selma. She’s the founder
of O Magazine, which has 16 million readers
throughout the world. She is an acclaimed
author herself, with a passion for reading,
who has, through her book club, encouraged so many
others to discover the pleasure of imaginatively
entering the worlds of others through books. She’s won many awards for
all her incredible work, including many Emmys and most
recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She’s an exceptionally
generous philanthropist who has founded a girls’
school in South Africa. Miss Winfrey’s
accomplishments are many, and she would say
that they all emerged from her deep sense of spirit
and her spiritual life. So she is with us
tonight here to give us the Rathbun Lecture as one of
the great spiritual leaders of our time. She encourages millions
to explore what it means to have a spiritual life. And that, she’s told us today,
is her very, very favorite thing to do. You can catch her having
probing conversations with other spiritual
leaders on Sunday mornings on her Super Soul Sunday
television program. You can read her wisdom
in her most recent book, What I Know for Sure. You can engage in deep
learning in her life class as it goes on tour
around the country. But this evening, we are
fortunate, we are blessed, and we are truly grateful that
she will be speaking to us about what leads to
a meaningful life. Distinguished guests,
students, faculty, staff, Miss Oprah Winfrey. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS] That was great. Hi, y’all. Woo! [APPLAUSE CONTINUE] Y’all just don’t even know what
this means to me to be standing in this hall. In 1970, before
you were you even a thought in the mind of God
or in the seed of your parents, I was in an oratorical contest
as a junior at East High School. And the great victory for
us as a state champions was to have our national
championship here at Stanford in this very church. [CROWD AWING] And as I stand her today,
I lost the contest, but I won the prize. [CROWD CHEERING] Wow, I know, I came in today and
I went, oh my gosh, I made it. Dean Shaw, that
introduction moves me, because one of my
goals as a human being has been to evolve
to the point of being a student in the
spiritual realm enough that I could be
able to bestow some of my knowledge, the information
I’ve gathered over the years from thousands of
interviews in such a way that I could call
myself a teacher. And I dared not call myself
a teacher until hearing it from you, and because you
have said I’m a teacher and you are here at
Stanford, I believe you. I’m going to take that. So thank you. It’s been an amazing
day here with you all. First of all, I have one of
my South African daughters, I have 20 girls in college
in the United States and one of them, [? Shadai, ?]
is here at Stanford. [APPLAUSE] And she’s a sophomore. And we came to Stanford I
think late 2011 or early 2012, I can’t remember. I remember landing on
the campus with her and we didn’t know if she
was going to get in yet. As we got into the car and
we’re pulling away she said, Momma O, these are my people. And I can understand why. Just being here in the
presence of such energetic, stimulated brilliance makes
us all want to be better. So I wish I could have
gone to this school and I’m thrilled that I
have one of my daughters who does go to this school. I love everything that
happens here in the bubble. And I’m really excited,
really excited to be a part of the Harry
Rathbun Lecture Series, because I have spent hundreds
and hundreds and hundreds and thousands hours talking to
spiritual leaders and teachers, and not just spiritual
leaders and teachers who have been deemed so, but
thousands of people who came from levels of dysfunction, who
came from levels of pain, who were suffering, who were
challenged in their progression in trying to be the best
human beings they could be. And they allowed
themselves the opportunity to come on our show,
The Oprah Winfrey Show and share their stories. I am one who believes in
the sharing of stories. I believe in the process
of sharing, period, because I know that all life
gets better when you share it. And those thousands
of people who have been guests on the
show and many of them were also audience members
have been my greatest teachers. And I would say that
one of my gifts, and it’s everybody’s job
to know what your gift is. So when I talk about my gift I’m
not bragging, it’s just fact. It’s just a fact, it’s a gift. Hey, he, ha, yes. One of my gifts that
I’ve had since I was a little girl growing
up in Mississippi, being raised on a tiny little
acre farm with my grandmother, is that I knew how
to pay attention. I was a great observer of life. And I grew up believing that
I was, indeed, for sure, God’s child. It’s because every Sunday
I sat in our little church down the road, a dirt road from
where my grandmother lived, no running water,
no electricity. I was saying this to my great
niece who’s eight the other day and she said, it sounds like
Little House on the Prairie. And I go, it kind of was. No running water, no
electricity, but the church is down the road from us,
and we could hear the singing as I was getting dressed
for Sunday school. And I’d always sit on
the left hand side, the left pew in the second row. And I would listen to the
preacher preach about the Lord, thy God is a loving
God, and sometimes he would say the Lord
thy God is a jealous God. But most important, I heard
him say, you are God’s child and through God all
things are possible. And I literally took him at
his word, so that by the time I had to leave my grandmother
because she became ill and I was sent to live in
Milwaukee with my mother who had other children, I got
beat up on the playground because when people would
ask me, who’s your daddy? I would say, Jesus is my daddy. Sometimes he’s my brother,
and God is my father. But what I now know and have
learned that my view of God, although I call
that God in a box and although my vision
of God has expanded to be inclusive of all things. All, all, God is
all, God is law, God is all, in all things,
not just the guy sitting up with the beard. And now that that view
of God has expanded, I still understand how important
it was for a little colored girl– we weren’t
even black yet, not to mention
African American– you know what I mean, Harry. A little colored
girl in Mississippi for whom there was no vision
of hope or possibility, my grandmother’s
greatest desire for me as she had been a
maid and her mother before her had been a
maid, her greatest desire was that I would grow up one
day and be able to do the same. And she wished for me
that I would be able to. And she used to say, I hope
you get some good white folks when you grow up. I hope you get good white
folks who treat you good. So my grandmother had no idea
of the life that I now lead, with good white folks
who are working for me. She just wouldn’t get it. [CHEERING] She wouldn’t get it. She wouldn’t get it, but
somehow I think she must know. And she’s up around in
the spirit realm saying, Lord, have mercy. I didn’t see it. But I now know that having that
belief system, that something greater than me was in charge
of my destiny, of my fate, that it wasn’t just me alone
having to survive for myself is the thing, is the value, is
the rock that has sustained me. So my vision, my
perception, my understanding of what it means to
be a universal citizen has grown as I
came to understand Acts 17:28, my favorite Bible
verse that says, “in God I move and breathe and have my being.” So my every attempt
in life has been, since I was a little
girl, to be in that space that I call God, to literally
live in the breath that is God. To live in the breath
and allow the breath to breathe me as God. And that is the
reason I see I have been able to manage fame, handle
the success, grow in grace, grow in the wisdom and glory
that is offered by that space that I know to be God, because
in God I live and breathe, I move and breathe,
and I have my being. In everything that I
do and all that I am comes up and out from
the center of that space, even when I didn’t
know what to call it. So I have paid
attention to my life, because I understand that my
life, just like your life, is always speaking to you,
where you are, in the language, with the people, with the
circumstances and experiences that you can understand
and interpret if you are willing to
see that always life, God is speaking to you. Now it took me a while to
actually really get this and to understand
it, but once I did I started paying
attention to everything. And one of the
reasons why I can now accept the fact that I can offer
my gatherings of information and wisdom and call myself
a spiritual teacher, is that every single person who
ever came on my show– and I hear there was like
37,000 guess I’ve talked to– a lot of them
came from dysfunction and a lot of them wouldn’t
appear to be teachers, but every one of
them had something to say that was
meaningful and valuable and that I could
use to grow myself into the best of myself, which
is what all of our jobs are. Your number one job is to
become more of yourself and to grow yourself into
the best of yourself. And so I had a lot of great
teachers, as we all do. I mean, old boyfriends are
some of the best teachers. Woo, boy I got a
doctorate degree from one. I’ll tell you about that later. But I was doing an Oprah
Show about a decade ago. One of my greatest teachers
was a man named John Diaz. We were doing a show
called “Would You Survive”? And on Tuesday
October 31, in 2000, Singapore Airlines flight 006,
a Boeing 747 from Taipei to Los Angeles took off with
179 souls aboard. Four crew and 79 passengers
perished in that flight, a total of 83 fatalities. There was a Typhoon rolling
through at the time, and the plane went
down the wrong runway. Now what’s interesting,
John Diaz was on that plane, and he had had several, several,
several indications– which I’ll talk about later–
whispers that he shouldn’t have gotten on the
plane, but he did anyway. He got on the plane
and he managed to be one of the survivors. And on the Oprah Show
I was asking him, do you think it was– what
do you think it was that you were one of the survivors? And I said, do you think it
was your position on the plane? Because he was in first class
and he was sitting on the right next to an exit door. He said, yes, I
think it might have been the position of the plane,
and also my quick thinking, he says. And the fact that I
didn’t stop moving. So I said, you don’t believe? You’re not a religious man? You don’t believe that
there was some kind of divine intervention
going on there? He goes, no, I’m not
a religious person. I do not believe it
was anything divine. I don’t believe that. I did see, he said, as I got
knocked back into the plane, that it looked like
Dante’s Inferno with people strapped into
their seats and just burning. And it seemed a bit to me, as
I turned and looked backwards, like there was a light coming
out of the tops of their heads. I guess you could call it an
aura was leaving their bodies. And some lights were
brighter than others. It changed, he
said, it changed me. It gave me a new
kind of spirituality, in a sense, that I now believe
somehow, I don’t know how, but life continues on
somehow through that light. And I thought, you know,
I’m not a religious man, but I thought the brightness
and dimness of the auras are how one lives one’s
life, so to speak. So that’s one of the major
things that really has changed with me since then, he says. I want to live my life so
my aura, when it leaves, is one of the brightest ones. I got chills when he said that. So much so, nothing to
do but go to commercial. We’ll be right back. What do you say after that? I want to live my life
so when my aura leaves it’s very bright. That’s one of those
moments that happens and you know that it’s bigger
than a show about survivors. Because I always knew
that when I am moved, at least a million other
people might be too. Because if I can
feel it and there are 20 million people
watching around the world, it means that somebody else also
felt and heard the same thing. That’s what connection is. So I thought a lot about that,
and thought about it obviously in thinking about and preparing
to talk to you all today. About how does one
lead a meaningful life? Because ultimately, isn’t
that what we all want? We want to lead a life
so that however we transition people can say, wow,
that was a bright one, that was a bright light. First of all, I
think that it comes from a deep sense of
awareness about who you are and why you’re here. It comes from being
in touch with, on a regular basis,
the appreciation and the holy gratitude that
should fill each of our hearts on a regular basis, just
knowing what a privilege it is to be here
and to be human. Close your eyes for a
moment, will you please? And breath with me. Just close your eyes. And if you will put your
thumb to your middle finger and gather your
other fingers around. And lets feel the vibration and
pulse of your personal energy as you take three
deep breaths with me. Inhale, and as you exhale just
feel the vibration, energy, blood pulsating through
your body, through you. And another inhale. [EXHALING] And another inhale. [INHALING] [EXHALING] And keep your eyes closed. And let’s just think
about this day, this day that you have
been graced to breathe in and out thousands of times. This day, where many of those
breaths were taken for granted, you just expected
the next one to come. But the truth is,
there’s no guarantees that the next one comes. This day, how you
started your day, what your thoughts
were this morning. How you’ve carried
yourself through this day, how you’ve been allowed to have
encounters and experiences, some challenging, some
more life enhancing that push you forward another day
of being here on the planet Earth as a human being. Let’s just think about that. After all you’ve been
through in this day alone and the many days in
years past, how you got here to this prestigious, esteemed
university, the choices you’ve made that have brought
you to this day. Open your heart and
quietly, to yourself, say the only prayer
that’s ever needed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re still here and you
get another chance this day to do better and be better,
another chance to become more who you were created, and what
you were created to fulfill. Thank you. Amen. Open your eyes. That’s how it starts. That is the
foundation for meaning and purpose in your life
is to bring yourself back to your breath. In all situations, in all
ways, in all challenges, to know that the value of
just still being here matters. It’s really big
that you’re here. It’s really big,
because everybody here has been called from the
ethers to do the will, to fulfill the highest
expression of yourself as a human being, and
to do that in truth. How do you do that? Well, I think you let every
step you take move you in the direction
of the one thing all religions can agree
on, and that is love. In all the
conversations I’ve had with so many people
over the years who run the gamut of all
kinds of emotions and emotional
dysfunctions, I’ve come to understand that what Marianne
Williamson said is true. There’s really only two
emotions that count, and that’s love and that’s fear. And in all of you are
movements through life you’re either moving in the
direction of one or the other. In order to have a meaningful
life you have to choose love. And not the schmaltzy,
daltzy kind of love, but the kind of love
that really counts, the kind of love that when
everything else is going wrong and nobody even knows you’re
choosing it you choose love. The kind of love that says I’m
here for you, no matter what, you choose love. The kind of love
that means you make the right decision, even when
you know the other person is wrong. You choose love, because love
is not just– It’s a verb, and it’s everything that
represent kindness, and grace, and harmony, and corporation,
and reverence for life. So when you choose when
you’re in a situation where you are mad, you
are mad, and you know they are
wrong, if you can go to that space of the breath, in
God I move and breathe and have my being, and make
the choice just to move a little closer in
the direction of that which is going to bring you grace,
that which is going to honor yourself, and by honoring
yourself you can’t help but honor the other person. I’ve learned to choose love over
fear, to choose love and peace rather than choosing
to be right. That was a big lesson for me. Do you want peace,
do you want love, or do you want to be right? For a little while I was
like, I’d rather be right. Rather be right with
a little bit of love. I am a Christian, I
grew up Christian, raised in the church
all day long on Sundays. Sunday school in the morning,
church in the afternoon, Bible school at night, prayer
service Wednesday night, choir practice. I grew up in the church. I would say I don’t go to
church as much anymore. My church is nature from me. My church is my life. I experience church
in every encounter with every person I
try to have church. And I try to live my
life from the tenant of the law, the third
law of motion in physics. If I had only one wise offering
for you it would be this one. The third law of
motion and all the laws of the universe actually,
are, in my mind, divine laws. And my favorite
is the third law, which says for every
action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There are lots of different
religions and philosophies that call this other things. In this country sometimes
we call it the golden rule. What I know for
sure is, it doesn’t matter what you do unto others,
it’s already done unto you. So anybody who’s seen the
movie The Color Purple, there’s a line in there when
Miss Celie leaves and she says to Mr., everything
you done to me– and she holds her two
fingers– already done to you. That’s the third law of motion. Newton didn’t know
that Celie was going to articulate it
that way, but everything you done to me,
already done to you. So that is the tenant
that rules my entire life. And before the
third law of motion, which says every action there’s
an equal and opposite reaction, before there’s even the
thought or the action there is the intention
for the thought. And if there’s one force
field that rules and dominates the meaning of life for
me, it is living my life with a pure sense of intention. Now this came to
me because I used to be one of those people who
had the disease to please. I said yes many
times when I knew I should’ve been saying no, and
then I would be mad at myself for saying yes. Anybody ever done that? You say yes, then you mad
when they come back again. Because when you say yes
when you really mean no, people follow the
intention of the yes. Because why do you say yes? You say yes because you
don’t want the person to be upset with you. They’re not. You don’t want the
person to be angry, you want the person
to think you’re nice. They do. And that is why they
keep coming back. I couldn’t understand it. I just gave you some money,
and now you are back. Oh, that’s because I didn’t
really state the truth and so now you
think me giving you the money meant I wanted
to give you the money and that’s why you’re back
asking me for some more. So I tested this
principle of intention when I first came to discover
it in Gary Zukav’s book Seed of the Soul. I say, I’m going to see if
that intention thing will work for this disease to please,
because people are always bothering me. So this is what I learned
through intention, nothing is showing
up in your life that you didn’t order there. If it’s there, it’s there
because you needed to see it. So I have a big life, and things
show up for me in big ways. So one day Stevie
Wonder calls me. I’m not name dropping,
it’s true, he called me. No brag, just fact. It was Stevie, an he
didn’t call to say he loved me either, he was
calling because he wanted something, but that’s OK. And I, at the time,
this was early on. Because when I first started
making money and it was my salary or my earnings were
published all over the place. I mean the first year
I was like, really? Did I make that much money? Oh, my god. It was very difficult
for me to figure out where my boundaries were,
because I’d grown up poor and didn’t have anything. So it’s easy when you don’t
have anything and people ask you for money. And they say I need $500,
and you say, I don’t have it, because I’m just trying
to get my rent paid. It’s harder when you’re
multi-billion dollar salary is now in the paper, and you get
a lot of friends and cousins you didn’t have before. So how do you set
boundaries for yourself? I was having trouble setting
boundaries for myself for even strangers. People would show up
at my door in Chicago and say, Oprah, I left my
husband, please help me. And I would, because
she knows I have it. So, don’t try that
now though, OK. Don’t try that now,
I figured it out! So what I learned is that
oh, the reason why people keep showing up is because
my intention is to make them think that I’m such a nice
person that you can ask me for anything. You can get me to do anything. I’m going to say yes,
I’m going to say yes. So when Stevie
called me this time I thought I’d try out
my first no on Stevie. Let’s start big. He wanted me to donate
some money to a charity, and I didn’t want to
donate to the charity, because I have my
own charities and I care about a lot of people. But the problem is when you have
money everybody thinks you just want to give to everything. So every letter I ever
get starts with, we know you love the children. Yes, I do love the
children, but somebody else is going to have to
help the children. So I said to Stevie,
I said to Stevie no. And as a person who has
that disease to please I was waiting for
him then to say, I will never speak to you again. I will never call you. I will never sing
a song for you. And he didn’t, he just said OK. OK? OK? It’s OK? He said, OK, check you later. And what I learned from
that is, many times you will have angst and
worry about things and put yourself in
a state, like someone said this morning because
her phone went off they were mortified. Over a phone, I said? Really? You will put yourself in a state
when the other person really isn’t even thinking about you. So learning that I
could specifically determine for myself what
the boundaries were for me, what I wanted to do, give
my money, give my time, give of my service,
to who I wanted to give it to when I did, that
I get to make that decision. And just because you
get 100 requests a week doesn’t mean you have to
try to fulfill all of that. Just because you have all of
these demands on your time and on you doesn’t mean
that you have to say yes. You get to decide,
because you’re the master of your fate,
the captain of your soul, as William Ernest
Henley said in Invictus. And understanding that really
changed the meaning of my life in that I was no longer driven
by what other people wanted me to do, but took
charge of my own destiny, making choices based
upon what do I feel is the next right move for me. So being able to go
continuously to that space, that I called the power station
of God, universal energy, the Divine flow. Being able to tap into
the space where you and all of life and
me and all of you in this room, all beings,
all things are connected. We had a meditation this
morning where we talked about entering that space. That space is real. You cannot, in my opinion,
have a meaningful life without a life of self reflection, of
spiritual and moral inquiry, and knowing who you are
and why you are truly here, spiritual self reflection, to
understand who you are and why you are here. And when you understand
the depths of that and you allow yourself to tap
into the space of that which is the force, the universal
energy, the Divine flow, and you do that with a sense of
authenticity that only you can, that only your
energy can bring, you become untouchable in whatever
it is you choose to do. So one of the reasons
I believe that I’ve been able to be so successful is
because during the years where we had fierce competition from
other shows and other people I would always say
to my producers, you can’t run their race,
you can only run yours. And you really can only
run what you’re doing. You can’t even worry about
your own fellow produces, you can only run your own race. That lesson that
Glinda the Good Witch gives to the Wicked Witch of
the West when she says, go away, you have no power here,
that’s a powerful lesson. Because I have seen over the
years in so many interviews and even in my real
life experiences, people losing their
power because you’re giving your power
to other people. You lose your power when
you try to take control of somebody else’s
energy, because you have no power in any energy
field other than that which is your own. And your real job in
life is to figure out how do you master your field. How do you do that? By consistently
choosing love, by living in the space of
gratitude, and knowing that that power that you
feel from time to time comes from a source that
is greater than yourself. Because nobody gets out
of here alone, nobody. Nobody is making it alone. And when you are trusting
when you are afraid, when you are sad, when you are
unable to make a decision, when you are challenged, when you are
moving in the direction of all that which is fearful,
it’s because you’re trusting in your own power. I couldn’t get here by
my little baby ego self. When you look at
where I’ve come from, a little town, apartheid
town in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1957
where there were more lynchings of black man
per capita than any place else in the world, where you
had to be off the streets, literally, when white people
walked down the streets. Where there was no
vision or hope for you as a black man or black woman,
other than being a domestic or teaching in the
colored school. And my ability to step into
literally the flow and grace that I called God is
what has gotten me here. And I consistently mine that,
because having a spiritual life isn’t something that you can
attain because you already are a spiritual life. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said,
“we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I know this to be true. So it’s not like you can go
out seeking a spiritual life, you already are one. And the real job is
for you to become aware of the soul’s calling
and the spirit that resides in, above, around,
and through you, and be about the business
of fulfilling that. There is no one else
in creation like you. There’s nobody like you. And what you’ve come to do
and what you have to offer is like no other,
even if they’re all doing the same thing. I met a bunch of people today
majoring in human biology. I go, woo, a lot
of human biologist coming out of Stanford. A lot of great ones. And although everybody’s
in the same class doing very similar things,
no one brings the level of uniqueness
and authenticity that you can bring. Nobody does it like you. And understanding that
what you have to offer, what you’ve come to
give to the planet is your gift, your offering
in a way that nobody else can and how much that matters. It matters to you, it
matters to the people that you love, and matters to
our planet that you are here. It’s just, you know,
it’s a miracle. It’s a miracle that
we get to be here. And when I think of
my life and the fact that nobody really kind of
wanted me in the beginning. My father had sex with
my mother one time. Can you imagine? That’s a powerful seed. Woo, honey child. But one time, one time. And he wasn’t in love with her. He said she was
wearing a poodle skirt and he wanted to know
what was up under there, and she showed him
by an oak tree. Now I got a yard
full of oaks, I know that’s where it all started. And to think that something
as random as my mother’s poodle skirt and my
father walking out the door at the time. She’d had her eye on him for a
while, so she was working it. To think that
something as random as that would create a little
Negro child in Mississippi who grew up and had, and
has had, and continues to have the opportunities
that I’ve had. I can assure that is
nothing but grace. It’s grace. It’s grace because I was allowed
to step into the flow of it and let it carry
me to this moment. And I’m not telling you what
to believe or who to believe or what to call it, but
there is no full life, no fulfilled, meaningful,
sustainably joyful life without a connection
to the spirit. I haven’t seen it happen. And the way for sustainability
is through practice. You must have a
spiritual practice. What is yours? Well, for some people it
is going to church, that’s where they nurture themselves. I believe that creativity,
artful expression, prayer, conscious kindness, empathy,
consistent compassion, gratitude, all
spiritual practices in the way of becoming
more of who you are. So I started a
gratitude journal, I mean, I was journaling
since actually I was standing here in 1970. I actually have in my
journal about visiting Stanford and what it meant
to come here as an orator. And for years all
of my journals were filled with he don’t
love me, I can’t believe she did that to me, and
this is what happened today. And about the late ’80s
someone introduced the idea of a gratitude journal to me. Gratitude journaling has become
a spiritual practice that leads to an enhanced, a more
enhanced and meaningful life, and you can start it today. And you can, I
guarantee, if you did it for a week you would
see a difference. Because every day, and
I’ll do it when I go home, five things I write down
that I am grateful for or that brought me joy
or opened my heart space. And by practicing
gratitude, what you realize is, is
that you wake up in the morning thinking
about, what are those five things going to be? Because some days
there’s only three. And then you have to
take a breath, inhale, that’s one, exhale, that’s two. OK, I made my five,
that’s all I got today. So practicing
gratitude in a way that allows you to take
stock of your life, that’s why it’s a spiritual
practice, because you’re now taking stock of your life. You’re assessing where
you are spiritually. And in order to maintain a sense
of growing yourself forward it requires also being
in a place of knowing that after you’ve done
all then you can– there’s a wonderful song by
Donnie McClurkin, it says, you just stand. There comes a time
in everybody’s life when you’ve actually
done all that you can do and you really want
something so badly but it still isn’t coming
forward for you in a way that you feel that it should. I know that what is for
you will come to you. I know that for sure. And I know that many times,
when it appears that something is happening to you, it is
always, always happening for you to strengthen you. Because my definition
of power is strength over time– strength,
times strength, times strength, times strength. So I’ll leave you with
my favorite story. I said this today
about The Color Purple. It’s one of my favorite
stories because it changed the meaning
of my life and changed the trajectory of my life. First of all, when I was doing
The Color Purple I had just come to Chicago and started
a show called A.M. Chicago. And I had asked my
bosses for the time off, and I needed two months
to do The Color Purple. And they said to me, you
don’t have two months, your contract says you
only get two weeks a year. So in order for us to
give you the time off, you’re going to have to
give up your remaining time on your contract
to do The Color Purple. I wanted to do it so badly
that I said, all right, I’ll give up the next
five years of my contract in order to do it. What happened was after The
Color Purple, after I filmed The Color Purple and
The Oprah Show was so successful, becoming so
successful– it was actually still called A.M. Chicago–
the bosses at my channel wanted to renegotiate
the contract. And my lawyer at the time said,
remember The Color Purple. You never want to be in a
position where something is that important to you to
do, and you can’t do it because the boss says you can’t. You want to be able to
own yourself and make your own decisions about
what’s important to you to do, and that was something that
was really important to you. So the fact that I had not been
allowed the time for The Color Purple is the reason why I made
the decision to take the risk to own my own show. And that has made
all the difference in the trajectory of my career. But let me try to
shorten this Color Purple story because it changed
the trajectory of my life. I wanted to be in
The Color Purple more than anything I’ve
ever wanted my life. I read the book on a Sunday. I got up, went back
to the bookstore, got every other
copy of the book. I passed it out to
everybody I knew. I was clearly obsessed
about The Color Purple. People see me coming
go, here she comes, talking about The Color Purple. Here she come again. I literally would walk
around with it in a backpack. I see all these backpacks,
y’all are loaded down here. I would walk around with
it in a backpack in case I ran into somebody
who hadn’t read it. And I’d say, oh,
you haven’t read it? I have one right here. And as life would have
it, because you’re always drawing things to you,
you’re drawing energy to you. Out of nowhere, supposedly,
coincidence, no such thing. But I get a call from a casting
agent saying that they’re casting for this movie
called The Color Purple, this movie called Moon Song. And I said, are you sure
it’s not The Color Purple? And he said, no, it’s
called Moon Song. Because at the time,
Steven Spielberg didn’t want anybody to know he
was shooting The Color Purple. So I go and audition
for the movie. I can’t believe that God
has allowed this to happen, because I am auditioning
with a character named Harpo. Do y’all know Harpo is
Oprah spelled backwards? I think that is a
direct sign from Jesus. But not only am I
now auditioning, I’m auditioning with somebody
named Harpo, amazing. When all I’d really asked
God, I’d said, God please, help me get in this movie. Help me get in this movie. I don’t know anybody
in the movies. I’m in Chicago doing a
show called A.M. Chicago. I thought I could be script
girl, best girl, best boy, whatever, the last
credit on the movie. Bottom line is, a long time
passed, I call up the agent and the agent said, you
don’t call us, we call you, and I didn’t call you. I hung up the phone. I was so upset I decided
to go to a fat farm, and I’m going to
lose the weight. That’s what they
called them the time. I’m going to the fat farm. I’m going to starve myself
because now all the weight is caught up with me. I know they hate me
because I’m fat, I said. I’m going to go and I’m
going to lose weight, and I’m going to try to
release this obsession that I have with The Color Purple. I’m going to try to let that go. Because now much
time has passed. And I am on the track,
running around the track, and I can hear my
thighs rubbing together. [FLOP, FLOP, FLOP] And I start crying, because
oh, gosh, now my thighs are rubbing together
and it’s raining and my hair is getting wet. So I started to pray. And I started, I’m
praying and I’m crying. And I’m asking God,
actually God, please help me let this go. I’m obsessed, I want it. Reuben Cannon had told me that
real actresses had auditioned for that part and then
I wasn’t a real actress, and that Alfre Woodard
had just left his office. So I thought for
sure Alfre Woodard’s going to get that part. And I’m running around the
track praying and crying. And the way prayer
works is, you can pray, but if you don’t release it,
if you don’t surrender it, it goes nowhere, it’s just
you talking to yourself. So I started singing this song. Do you know this
song? (SINGING) I surrender all, I surrender all. All to thee my blessed
savior, I surrender all. I sang and I prayed and I
cried until I could release the pain, the suffering
of the rejection that Reuben Cannon had
caused be by telling me that I don’t call you. And then I realized, oh,
I’m still carrying it around so I won’t be able to go
to see the movie so I’m going to now pray
that I can bless Alfre Woodard in the movie. Let me bless Alfre
Woodard so I’ll be able to go see this movie. I start singing again,
I surrender all. Please don’t let me have
now a grudge against Alfre Woodard who took my movie. Let me have peace in
my heart about that. So I pray, I pray, I pray until
I’m singing, I surrender all, a woman comes out and
says to me that there’s a phone call for you. And in that phone call
I was told next day, show up in Steven
Spielberg’s office, and if you lose a pound
you could lose this part. So I stopped at the Dairy Queen. [CROWD CHEERING] But the point of this
story is surrender. And the point of the
story is I thought I could just be a script
girl, best girl, whatever. I was just happy to be
anywhere in the film. The point of this
story is God can dream, the universe can dream,
your creation can dream, the flow of your life can dream,
has a bigger plan and a bigger dream for you then you can
ever even imagine for yourself. When I finished The Color Purple
Quincy Jones said to me baby, your future is so
bright it burns my eyes. And I say the same
thing to all of you. You Stanford students
with this amazing gift to be at this institution
and let your light so shine, your brilliance. Your future’s so bright
it burns my eyes. The glory that the universe,
God has in store for you is unimaginable to you,
you can’t even imagine it. You can’t even imagine it. If you will surrender
that which is yourself in alignment
with the greater self and allow yourself to become
a part of the force of all. Take your glory, it’s waiting
for you, and run with it. Thank you. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]

100 thoughts on “Oprah Winfrey delivers 2015 “Harry’s Last Lecture” at Stanford University

  1. boom chicks should follow James the cult leader known for the book secret he could change your life too Oprah is not a spiritual leader

  2. You can know much of the person that Oprah is through this speech..!!..Very good speech!!

  3. I love her glasses here! anyone know what brand they are? (probably way out of my budget but I'm curious)

  4. This is one of the most beautiful lectures I've heard in a long time. Great message to begin my week with.

  5. Oprah ! You are an idiot. Anyone that does not believe in God in nothing more than Garbage. A day will come when you will have to awnswer for you sins, Night comes for you.

  6. She keeps going of topic, just talking about herself and about her pseudo-philosophical ideas, based simply on her empirical knowledge.
    There are so many thinkers and philosophers who are way more interesting and profound than Oprah (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, C. S. Lewis, just to name a few). Standford, you should've known better.

  7. http://jezebel.com/this-dogs-butthole-literally-looks-like-jesus-513072075

  8. I spend my time reflecting on the positive in what I hear and see and do. As a result, I am made better and the impact I have on those around me is reflective of the good. Oprah has learned how to use her resources to share some good to many! My Pastor, Bishop Dale C. Bronner says, when we leave this life, we leave our mantle (anointing). We don't take it with us! Will your aura be bright when it's your time?

  9. I find it interesting that some of the "Christians" use profanity and slander to express their feelings about Oprah's message as well as directly at other people's posts. I don't see any comments from those in support of Oprah's message responding in kind to the "Christians". Thanks for illustrating so blatantly here how "Christians" can have such a negative impact on those trying to find their way.

  10. "we came to Stanford I think late 2011… we didn't know if she was gonna get in"

    lol, like hell you didn't. $$$

  11. 15:37 – HA!!!! TELL 'EM OPRAH! That's right slaving for the girl they'd never thought would be anything!!

  12. I love you I just gave Salves tor turner and your brother combined a 100,000,000 million will suffix, until nine months Salves tor and the Hpd pOLICE CHIEF Charles mc lennaned went to the bank to cash our illuminaughty check when you went outside to ask St. prez for the gloves come get it. i'll be att burger king tomorrow morning.

  13. ms winfrey and to all people please visit this website www.incmedia.org watch our SHOWS,then select the category or topic you want to watch like Preaching shows,INC International Edition,The Message,That's in the Bible,Face the Truth,The Solution,INC and the Bible

  14. Where's Harry's last lecture? This was an entire video of her talking about herself??? I need closure Stanford

  15. So Stanford University: because The Kardashians have become unacceptable Mean Girls style social bullies who are using their fame to oppress everyone like they were Regina George’s posse in Mean Girls we created a new social system that’s totally new. The way it works is there are now 8 Social Class Categories and your new Social Rank is determined by your highest individual level in your highest leveled social class. The 8 Classes are LOOKS STATUS BRAINS SIZE MYSTERY FAME BRAWN and MONEY and they come from the 8 natural attraction categories. You can remember them with the memory phrase "Handsome Kings Know Big Secrets Famous Warriors Buy.”

    Here are examples of top ranked women in the 8 categories:

    LOOKS: Miranda Kerr, Ashley Arenson, Kate Upton.
    STATUS: Kate Middleton, Ivanka Trump, Michelle Obama.
    BRAINS: Priscilla Chan, Lo Bosworth, Tina Fey.
    SIZE: Rachel Aldana, Miosotis Claribel, Hitomi Tanaka.
    MYSTERY: Beyonce Knowles, Malika Haqq, Khadijah Haqq.
    FAME: Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner.
    BRAWN: Ronda Rousey, Olivia Palermo, Veronica Leigh.
    MONEY: Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

    Now obviously some women are top ranked in more than one category where Beyonce Knowles is top ranked in both FAME and MYSTERY and Sheryl Sandberg is top ranked in both STATUS and MONEY but this is basically how it works and you are just ranked by your highest level in one class because the levels don’t add together. So if Katy Perry is level 45 in fame and level 30 in bust size then her social rank is just Rank 45 by her highest level which is Level 45 Fame. Meanwhile if Taylor Swift is level 50 in Fame and Level 5 in Bust Size then Taylor’s Social Rank is still Rank 50 and she still outranks Katy Perry because the levels don’t add together. So your social rank is based on your highest rank in your top leveled class because the levels don’t add together.

    This new system was based on the Class System from Final Fantasy XIV where you can only be one job at a time and your current level is based on the level of your active class where your overall level is based on your highest level in your top leveled class. So if you are a Level 45 Paladin, a Level 35 White Mage, and a Level 30 Monk then your overall level is just 45 while if someone is a Level 45 Paladin, a level 5 Thaumaturge, and a level 5 Archaist then their overall level is also 45 and you guys are equal in Rank since your overall rank is just based on your top level in your top leveled class rather than any kind of cumulative sum of your levels in different classes.

  16. The breath meditation is from Buddhism but it is becoming more mainstream. I'm glad all peoples can learn to practice this.

  17. It's quite interesting how the breath meditation is now being Christianised.

  18. this is such a valuable interview.. thank you for sharing! much love xoxo

  19. I wish I can talk face to face with Oprah it is my dream I am from Guyana

  20. Thank you for sharing Stanford. Oprah rocks. I've always loved her and always will. Thank you Oprah for all that you do and all that you are. Indeed, we are all as beautiful as you. We just have to keep aware of that.

  21. Oprah I love you, but I have to say… black is not a good color for you to ware.

  22. good white folks who work for me 😂 she killed it 🙌love u Oprah 15:43

  23. Oprah should do this once every single month, a lot of things said this lecture, while I'm going through rough times, has become my daily mantras

  24. sweet sweet Oprah you change my life i really like every word you say to us you are a mother for real my dream now is to meet you in-person and hear you i have no mother but when ever i really want to hear motherly words i just turn to your voice. i love Mummy Oprah thank you my God continue to use you . thats me Portia in Zimbabwe

  25. I remember that I have always been fascinated by Oprah, she is a true Shining Star. My best wishes for her always 🙂 Emelina Villafuerte Gila …

  26. I see myself through her and I know God has Good plans for my life..My Role model even when growing up.

  27. Can she not run for Presidency and have Erkhart Tolle as President of Education and  Sir David Attenborough as President of Environmental Affaires.  ??? please ???

  28. she is an example of immense grit n courage and personifise the example of victory over adversity…

  29. Actions speak louder than words. Oprah has lived the acts of Christ by caring for the people that the Bible speaks about helping. It always amazes me how people that criticize the most do nothing for anyone. When they have the opportunity to volunteer they don't, when they have the opportunity to give they don't, when people need to lean on their shoulder they are nowhere to be found. It is ok to quote scripture, but do you live it?

  30. u grow character nd purpose in stranford… nd cramming nd frustration in my college…

  31. Miss Ophra ( is long time have good advocacy and vocation ( she's honest and kind person ) as ever ( I salute ) to this woman . Very natural .😍😇😘

  32. Be one like miss Ophra ( she's one example in this Earth .( God bless you ) and graduates 😇😘😍😐😏😶😑☺😚😙😗😋😊😀😆😁😃😄😅😉😇

  33. oprah been an insperation in my life since l was 11 years old this woman has tought me alot thru the tv

  34. What I started to feel (feel, sense) is tha there’s a common thread that runs thorugh every interview. Doesn’t matter what it is or what is is about. Everyone wants to know. And this is the truth. All of your arguments are really about the same thing. It’s about: did you hear me, did you see me, and did what I say mean anything to you?

  35. Hi. Nice Stanford has a nice catholic church. God bless, Proverbs 31

  36. You are full of wisdom I love you so much The reason I love you I love wisdom The beauty of nature You shine through it God-bless you😘😘

  37. "All of life gets better when you share it." True words, Oprah. Thanks for sharing this, Stanford.

  38. Yes Oprah !! It is a FACT! Absolutely!! You are my god! Lots love – Ireland xb

  39. I can’t believe you invited her there. Did she talk about how she sabotages people she befriends?

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  41. #💡🌏💕💎: “#PerformingEducationalMusicalEntertainmentsLyricalArts!#JohnDenverSweetSurrender!#GODLovesUs! RESPECTS&THANKSGIVINGS!{.

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