What I Learned from Oprah Winfrey

I’m not sure if you heard, but the latest David Letterman conversation brought Oprah Winfrey to campus. Students (myself included) waited out in the cold for 15 hours overnight to guarantee that they would have a ticket to the chat between legends.

I walked into Emens Auditorium yesterday knowing next to nothing about Oprah’s history. I had no idea what she had gone through in her past. To hear about some of the things that she had survived, about the kinds of things she had to overcome to become the woman she is today.

I took something from that talk that I didn’t expect to take. As a senior graduating who still isn’t quite sure what he’s doing, the things that Oprah talked about hit home. She talked about growing up and having this little voice in her head that told her that exercising her voice out loud was what she was meant to do. I get that feeling when I look at one option, and that isn’t the option I’m pursuing. Hearing Oprah say that I’m meant to be listening to that voice was really important for me right then.

“What you aren’t doing is a great indication of what you should be doing,” she said.

I’m not pursuing that dream of mine. That quote was taken in the larger context of difference-making, but I brought it back to that personal level as I took a look at what I was doing with my life. I’m an incredibly lucky person. I grew up in conditions that were nothing like the ones Oprah went through, and I act like I have bad days. David Letterman told Oprah that her story was “stunning,” and I agree wholeheartedly. I have an incredible number of opportunities–more than she was ever afforded as a young black woman raised first in the deep South and later in an atmosphere of self-loathing in Milwaukee. I’m a fool if I’m not taking those opportunities and running with them.

These are the opportunities Ball State has provided me with. I had the opportunity to hear this incredibly inspirational talk between Letterman and Oprah. Dave said onstage that this was the first of his “conversations” at BSU that he thought would really affect at least one person in that audience, and he was right, even if I was the only one affected.

I don’t have a lot to say about the nature of this talk and the way it relates to Ball State’s changing atmosphere when it comes to emerging media. I don’t have a lot to say about the relevance of this event across a campus of thousands of students. There are plenty of things that I could try to say, but they wouldn’t mean much when it comes down to a personal level.

What I do have to say is how this event affected me, and that’s the part that I’ll carry with me long after I’ve stepped across that stage in May 2013.

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