Oprah Winfrey will be the principal speaker at the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard’s 362nd Commencement on May 30. The iconic talk show host, TV station owner and celebrity is known to have lent her name, influence and power to advocacies and civic engagement.
Winfrey, best known for her nationally syndicated and multi-award-winning talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is now one of the world’s leading media executives helming production company Harpo Studios, The Oprah Magazine and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
She is one of the world’s 200 wealthiest people with a net worth of US$2.7-B and was named 11th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2012.
In an article on news.harvard.edu, Harvard President Drew Faust says, “Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories.
“She has used her extraordinary influence and reach as a force for good in the world, with a constant focus on the importance of educational opportunity and the virtues of serving others.”
Her advocacy for children spurred the passage of the “Oprah Bill” which has created a national database of convicted child abusers.
Her public charity, Oprah’s Angels Network, has established dozens of schools, supported women’s shelters, built youth centers and provided relief after Hurricane Katrina.
Her private foundation has created the Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program which awards scholarships to students who want to give back to their communities. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa educates all girls from all 9 South African provinces.
Her foundation has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations for the education and empowerment of women, children and families worldwide.
The Oprah Winfrey Book Club has helped stimulate reading worldwide and features many authors who might have otherwise been overlooked.
Winfrey will be the latest name to join the stellar list of politicians, industry leaders and authors who have spoken to Harvard’s graduating class. This list includes Bill Gates, George Marshall and J.K. Rowling.
The 59-year-old philanthropist and celebrity is a popular graduation speaker having spoken at Standford University, Duke University and Spelman College in recent years.