Oprah advises Agnes Scott grads to “feel everything with love” for success
According to world-renowned media icon, philanthropist and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, the best way to build a legacy is to feel everything with love.
Winfrey spoke at Agnes Scott College—located at 141 E. College Avenue in Decatur—on May 13 as the private college’s 2017 commencement speaker, imparting wisdom to thousands of attendees.
Winfrey challenged graduates to lead lives filled with compassion, constructive engagement and service.
“The world needs you right now—the struggle is real right now,” Winfrey said. “The struggle to remain compassionate, the struggle to remain committed, the struggle to remain constructively engaged—but I’m betting on you.”
Winfrey said it is not parts of one’s life that make a difference, but one’s whole life. She said actions and interactions, as well as how one goes about completing them, are how to make a difference in the world.
“When I was about 30 years old, I started to realize it was my whole life—not just parts of my life—was a prayer,” Winfrey said. “My whole life is an offering in service. What I started to realize it’s not just what I do, but how I do it. I’m not just praying on my knees, but living in a state of humility on my knees in service to the higher calling of my life.”
Winfrey advised graduates to think deeply about what they stand for and to represent it well to find success.
“You’re nothing if you’re not the truth,” Winfrey said.
For Winfrey, compassion is not only sympathy, but also feeling what others feel, feeling with others, shouldering their pain and recognizing aspects of one’s self in other people.
To actualize commitment, Winfrey advised graduates to commit to serving the world. She characterized her 25-year career on the Oprah Winfrey Show as a tool of service.
Constructive engagement, according to Winfrey, involves listening, hearing both sides of issues and finding common ground, even with forces deemed conflicting or confrontational.
“I want you to work, in your own way, to change the world in respectful conversations with others at a rate and rhythm that’s in tune with the source from which you have in common—your truth,” Winfrey said. “I want you to enter every situation aware of its context, open to hear the truth of others, and most importantly, open to allowing the process of changing the world change you.”
Winfrey said these three tools are key in living a life of substance and ultimately, fulfillment. Along the way, Winfrey also advised to “let failure be a friend,” to focus on positives rather than negatives, to acknowledge no one makes it alone, and to find a spiritual practice.
“You will get nowhere without a spiritual practice,” Winfrey said. “That’s not necessarily religion—for some people it is church, for some people it is meditating, for some people it’s dancing, for some people it’s singing. You have to find a way to nurture that which is the essence of you and continually give back to yourself so that you are a full woman.”
The result, Winfrey said, is the ability to feel everything with love and purpose. She quoted her friend, colleague and mentor Maya Angelou with her concluding remarks.
“Your legacy is every life you touch,” Winfrey said. “It’s not the awards you receive, not the acclaim. It’s every single being you’ve ever come in contact with. You have left your heart print and legacy. Feel everything with love, because every moment you are building your legacy.”
According to Agnes Scott president Elizabeth Kiss, Winfrey embodies the college’s mission of creating impactful, intelligent and successful women.
“I cannot think of a more perfect commencement speaker for Agnes Scott, for this class and for this moment in history,” Kiss said. “From a difficult and abusive childhood, she has proven that with faith, strength and the courage of a lion, your dreams are not out of reach. She is a trailblazer in so many ways. There’s really nothing she cannot do.”
Agnes Scott College was one of nine stops for Winfrey, who will be speaking at colleges and universities with graduates from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
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