As someone who wasn’t able to attend her own commencement ceremony (fairly enough, I took a semester off to live in Paris and graduated in the middle of the wrong academic year), I am always interested in watching my alma mater’s commencement speech and pretending I’m sweating in the audience with my cap and gown, soon to be whisked away by my friends to take pics with Tommy Trojan and by family for a fancy dinner at my favorite restaurant.

Oprah Winfrey’s Keynote Address at USC’s Annenberg Commencement Ceremony

This year the lucky graduates of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism were graced with Oprah Winfrey’s presence on the day of their graduation. Global media leader, philanthropist, producer and Academy Award-nominated actress – an all-around female powerhouse – it is only fitting that Oprah Winfrey would deliver the keynote address to the next generation of leaders in communication (and graduated-eons-ago alumni like me who never attended Annenberg).

If you can spare the time watch her commencement speech, it’s definitely worth it. However, if not, I’ve taken note of the key takeaways from her speech that resonated with me most. But first, as Oprah states at the start of her speech, let’s start with the 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. 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.”

And now the good & the inspiring from Oprah:

  • We cannot meet hysteria with more hysteria. We are an ambitious army of truth seekers who will use our intelligence and DISCERNMENT to fulfill our responsibility to fight fake news.
  • The question that is going to follow us throughout our lives is – What are you willing to stand for ? And how do we answer it ? Be putting our honor where our mouth is. Show up. Do the work. Keep your word.
  • Oprah encourages us to « Pick a problem, any problem. And do. Something. About. It. «  I added periods for dramatic effect.
  • Oprah further instills a sense of responsibility by asking what could happen if we joined forces and worked together in service of something bigger than ourselves. What mountains could we move.
  • She also dishes out some life and work advice, admitting that she has no new lessons to give, but simply old lessons we should re-learn. Towards the end of her speech, she tells us that we should focus on learning more about who we are throughout our life journey and fulfilling the highest, truest expression of ourselves as a human being – through our work, our art, our relationships, and our love.
  • Regarding work life, she advises us to become so skilled, vigilant, and fabulous and what we do that no one can dismiss our talent.

Watch Youtube Video HERE.

Abby Wombach Delivers an Incredible Speech at Barnard College 

From YouTube

Abby Wombach, retired soccer legend & FIFA Women’s World Cup champion with the U.S. women’s national team, delivered an immensely inspiring and feminist speech to Barnard College that near brought me to tears. As women, no matter what path of life we are walking, we all share a common experience, and Abby’s speech was powerful enough to unite each and every one of us- no matter where we are in the world, no matter our privileges, and no matter our struggles – into one wolf pack.

‘Women have learned that we can be grateful for what we have while also demanding what we deserve. Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done. I was freaking Little Red Riding Hood. The message is clear: Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much, or bad things will happen. I stayed on the path out of fear, not of being eaten by a wolf, but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this: ‘Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf. So when I was entrusted with the honor of speaking here today, I decided that the most important thing for me to say to you is this: BARNARD WOMEN—CLASS OF 2018—WE. ARE. THE. WOLVES.’

She gives an example of when wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1005 after being absent for seventy years and how the wolves who were seen as a threat to the entire system, turned out to be why it survived. This powerful allegory demonstrates that like the wolves, women are feared as a threat to the ‘system’ but we will also be society’s salvation.

She talks about how she was awarded right alongside Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning the ESPN Inaugural Icon Award, but despite making the same sacrifices, they had something she did not- freedom. She then talks about the pay gap and what it costs us:

‘We talk a lot about the pay gap. We talk about how we U.S. women overall still earn only 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, and black women make only 63 cents, while Latinas make 54 cents. What we need to talk about more is the aggregate and compounding effects of the pay gap on women’s lives. Over time, the pay gap means women are able to invest less and save less so they have to work longer. When we talk about what the pay gap costs us, let’s be clear. IT COSTS US OUR VERY LIVES.’

Through rest of her speech she provides 4 life lessons:

#1 Make failure your fuel and fail up.

#2 Lead from the bench.

#3 Champion each other.

#4 Demand the ball, demand the promotion, demand the same pay as the guy next to you, demand the job, demand the microphone.

Watch Youtube Video HERE.

Written By: Andrea Lee, @organicbeautylover

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