Oprah delivers keynote address at Smith College commencement

Parents hoped Oprah's own perseverance would leave an impression on their graduates

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Oprah Winfrey was the commencement speaker at the Smith College graduation Sunday morning.

Graduates cheered their keynote speaker, along with their family and friends at the Smith College commencement.

Graduate Chelsea Pimentel said, “I wanted to cry. My first reaction was just I screamed. Her role, kind of, will be to give us wisdom, guide in the transition out of Smith. Who better than Oprah?”

Oprah was at Smith to receive an honorary degree, to deliver the commencement address, and to celebrate the graduation of Morgan Mpungose, one of the first students at Oprah’s Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa. Mpungose graduated from Smith College Sunday with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Oprah celebrated the young woman’s success in her speech. She said, “Smith, you are giving her back to us, as an exquisitely developed, cooperative, curiously inquisitive and global-minded woman for the world”.

Mpungose didn’t want to speak on camera, but she told 22News that Oprah has been like a second mother to her. She said the Leadership Academy gave her the opportunity to dream beyond herself. Now, she’ll be heading to USC to earn her master’s degree in architecture.

Mpungose said her goal is to create and design low-income housing in her native South Africa one day.

Oprah encouraged the graduates to take their skills and what they learned here at Smith and use them in service to others.

She said in her speech, “Know the power of service. That which has been ingrained in you since the day you came to Smith. And that truly is the secret to my success.”

Parents hoped Oprah’s own perseverance would leave an impression on their graduates.

Patty Grant told 22News, “I use to live in Chicago when Oprah started her local TV show there, and to see how she went from that local TV show to becoming that philanthropist that helped other people. I think if she could give that message to not just think about yourself, but what you can do for others”.

As she looked out at the future architects, teachers, artists and mathematicians, Oprah left them with one final piece of advice. “My closing prayer for you Smitthies, that you leave here, and live the brightest life.”