During an inspirational keynote address on Thursday afternoon in Soweto, Oprah Winfrey received several standing ovations for her stirring speech.
The speech was broadcast live on TV, telling South Africa’s youth to never give up, to be resilient and to find their strength in telling their stories.
Oprah spoke at a packed auditorium in Soweto as part of an event organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, titled”Is’thunzi Sabafazi” (Dignity of Women).
WATCH THE SPEECH HERE:
Speaking about the 10 days she got to spend with Nelson Mandela before she built her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls school, she said: “We are Mandela’s children, and we are his legacy. And his legacy speaks to us each time we choose unity over division. His legacy speaks to us each time we decide that we are going to fight for equality over domination and love over hate”.
“The spirit of him abides with every man, every woman who listens with humility; everyone who says yes to breaking down a barrier, and not to putting up a wall. Who educates, rather than retaliates. He is with us every single time everybody casts a vote for democracy and casts a vote for freedom – he lives,” said Winfrey.
About her school she built in 2007 she said “I built a school to give girls who look like me, who came from backgrounds like me, who didn’t have the means but had the brainpower and the will to succeed, I wanted to give those girls a chance. And I will say that the experience of watching these daughters of South Africa find their voice and find their grace has made me think long and hard about the universe that our young leaders and graduating into today.”
Some of the girls, many of whom were in the audience on Thursday, she said have gone on to graduate from universities in the United States. Two graduated from Oxford, some from the University of Johannesburg, as well as NMMU, UCT, Wits, Pretoria and Stellenbosch.
“I have right now 191 girls in college,” Oprah said, “20 of them in the United States.”
“So here is my hope – not just for my girls, but for South Africans and human beings everywhere: I hope that we are able to continue to create a culture that recognises the responsibility that we have to one another.”
“I know everybody can’t build a school but you can take care of the person who is closest to you. You can help. You can ask the question: ‘How can I be used for something greater than myself?’ And in doing that, you align with Madiba’s vision – both compassionate and practical. He knew that if one of us is wounded, all of us bleed. He knew that if one of us is lacking, all of us are somehow affected.”
“We all need to roll up our sleeves wherever you are, whatever you can do, and begin to build a new future.”
Never give up
“I want to say a word to the young dreamers of this nation. Madiba said a winner is a dreamer who never gives up,” said Oprah.
“I realise that the statistics are abysmal, that you’re still the most vulnerable in the labour market with more than one in every three of you out of work. Do … not … give … up. Find a way,” she stressed amidst loud applause.
“I want you to know that your day will come. It’s coming, it’s on its way, because of you. And I want you to know that I applaud your resilience.”
Winfrey said it’s one of the things she admires most about South African and the country’s youth. “The remarkable thing about every single girl who come to my school is all the trials and traumas they’ve been through. Most girls have experienced 6 major traumas by the time they get to my school and in spite of that they still rise. And so I say to all the young people, you too can rise. You are capable, you are brimming with the wisdom of all who came before you.”
Tell your story
Oprah said: “Tell your story. One of the things I’ve learnt from all of the girls at my school is when they came to my school they had such shame about their stories.”
“Now we have a policy at my school that we are a trauma informed school, that knows and recognises that there’s power in the story – that the story can liberate you. That everything that has ever happened to you, no matter how devastating, how matter how sorrowful, now matter how challenging – there is not one thing that happened to you, that did not also happened for you.”
“Everything that has ever happened has happened to build your strength. And that strength equals power. So when you’ve been so so many trials and so many tribulations, what it does to you if you allow yourself to open up to the story that has come before you, what happens is it gives you power.”