Oprah Winfrey began her commencement speech at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism with some “bad news.”
“Everything around us, including and in particular the internet and social media, is now being used to erode trust in our institutions, interfere in our elections, and wreak havoc on our infrastructure,” she said. “It hands advertisers a map to our deepest desires, it enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short, and false stories from phony sites to run circles around major news outlets. We have literally walked into traffic while staring at our phones.”
But Winfrey, tapping into that same energy that moved the audience at this year’s Golden Globes, made note of “the good news.”
“The good news is there really is a solution,” she said, “and the solution is each and every one of you because you will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth-seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence and the insight and the facts necessary to strike down deceit. You’re in a position to keep all of those who now disparage real news, you are the ones who are going to keep those people in check.
“Why?” she continued. “Because you can push back and you can answer false narratives with real information and you can set the record straight. And you also have the ability to and power to give voice to those who desperately now need to tell their stories and have their stores told.”
Winfrey further urged the graduating class to “see through” and “transcend” the “hysteria” of the current political climate. “That is how you overcome the hysteria and that is how you overcome the sniping at one another, the trolling, the mean-spirited partisanship on both sides of the aisle, the divisiveness, the injustices, and the out-and-out hatred. You use it. Use this moment to encourage you, to embolden you, and to literally push you into the rising of your life.”
The media mogul joked she was a little hesitant to speak at the commencement because “the rumors from my last big speech have finally died down,” a reference to the chatter of presidential aspirations that she has since debunked. But she still came out and reiterated the importance of voting.
“If they go low — thank you, Michelle Obama — we go to the polls,” Winfrey said. “People died for that right. I think about it every time I cast a vote. So don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.”
Watch her full 20-minute-long address in the video above.
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