These Are Oprah's Surprisingly Powerful Lessons for College Graduates (No, It's Not What You Think)

Eat a good breakfast – because “it really pays off.”

Make your bed.

Pay your bills on time.

Don’t “cheap out on your shoes.”

Vote.

No, these aren’t words from your mom, your aunt, or even your elementary school teacher.

These small but practical bits of advice came from Oprah Winfrey, philanthropist, billionaire, and American media mogul, who delivered the commencement address for a lucky group of graduates this month.

Oprah admits that she wasn’t quite sure what to say at the ceremony for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism: “I was a little intimidated coming here, because…it’s hard trying to come up with something to share with you that you haven’t already heard…I don’t have any new lessons. But I often think that it’s not the new lessons so much as it is learning the old ones, again and again.” 

Here are the top lessons for this year’s graduates from Oprah:

1. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

“The number one lesson that I can offer you where your work is concerned is this: become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.” Make yourself indispensable and see what heights you can reach! 

2. Pick a problem and work to solve it.

“The homeless need opportunity, the addicted need treatment, the Dreamers need protection, the prison system needs reforming, the LGBTQ community needs acceptance, the social safety net needs saving, and the misogyny needs to stop,” she says. Oprah asks that graduates use their gifts to “illuminate the darkness” in our world. “Pick a problem,” Oprah suggests. “My deepest satisfaction and my biggest rewards have come from exactly that.”

3. Combat cynicism.

“Here and now, I believe, you have to declare war on one of our most dangerous enemies, and that is cynicism,” says Oprah. “When that little creature sinks its hooks into you, it’ll cloud your clarity. It’ll compromise your integrity, it’ll lower your standards, it’ll choke your empathy, and sooner or later, cynicism shatters your faith.” 

4. Be the truth, exemplify honesty

In a world full of media inaccuracies and “fake news,” Oprah advises graduates to “take everything you’ve learned, to challenge to the left, and the right, and the center.” The truth is something highly valuable, as it, “exonerates and it convicts. It disinfects and it galvanizes.” The truth, “has always been, and will always be, our shield against corruption, our shield against greed and despair. The truth is our saving grace.”

And, Oprah states, not only are you — whether you are graduating this year or not — “here to tell it, to write it, to proclaim it, to speak it, but…”

The lesson you can’t learn inside the classroom? According to Oprah:

“Be the truth. Be the truth.”

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