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Some lucky graduates at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina had one heck of a commencement speaker this spring: Oprah Winfrey, herself. The Oscar-nominee and former talk show host also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the school. 

During her speech, Winfrey quoted Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr., while offering the crowd empowering and inspirational messages, the Huffington Post reported.

“Every stumble is not a fall, and every fall does not mean failure,” Winfrey told the crowd.  

She added, “Being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.”

And while there had been many calls for her to boycott North Carolina because of their archaic anti-LGBTQ laws, Winfrey still showed up to fulfil her responsibility.

“I got calls from members of the press asking me was I going to boycott being here today because of North Carolina and y’all’s issues. And I said, ‘Listen, anybody that knows me knows: I don’t believe in or support any law discriminating against anybody, ever. But I will be at J-C…”‘ she said. 

Her speech was just one part of a whirlwind weekend of graduation activities. She started off at Mount Holyoke then flew to Johnson C. Smith and then jetted over to Spelman College in Atlanta, all to watch her “daughters” from her South African academy graduate from their perspective colleges, the Daily Mail noted.

Winfrey wouldn’t have missed this for the world. She said during her speech that she made a promise to Nelson Mandela that when she school opened her school back in 2007, she would attend the graduations of the first group of girls. And as usual, Mama Oprah came through on her promise. 


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Oprah To Johnson C. Smith Graduates: ‘Every Fall Does Not Mean Failure’  was originally published on