Media mogul Oprah Winfrey delivered a rousing pep talk Friday to graduates of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, offering not only life advice but saying they will be the ones to combat misinformation and help guide the nation’s future.
“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,” Winfrey told graduates at the ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium. “… It enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short and false stories from phony sites to run circles around major news outlets.
“… The good news is that there really is a solution,” she said. “And the solution is each and every one of you, because you will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth-seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, the insight and the facts necessary to strike down deceit. You are in a position to keep all of those who now disparage real news — you all are the ones who are going to keep those people in check.
“Why? Because you can push back and you can answer false narratives with real information and you can set the record straight and you also have the ability and the power to give voice … to people who desperately now need to tell their stories and have their stories told.”
Winfrey joked that the graduates are being “catapulted into a world that appears to be off its rocker,” but said it is their “time to rise.”
“You can use your gifts … to illuminate the darkness in our world. This moment in time, this is your time to rise. It is.”
She added: “We’re supposed to see this moment in time for what it is. We’re supposed to see through it and then transcend it. That is how you overcome hysteria.”
Winfrey also told the graduates that their greatest power and biggest impact on the future will come at the ballot box.
“Vote. Vote. Vote,” she told the crowd. “Pay attention to what the people who claim to represent you are doing and saying in your name and on your behalf. They represent you and if they have not done right by you, if their policies are at odds with your core beliefs, then you have a responsibility to send them packing.”
Winfrey also offered some life advice for the graduates, such as “eat a good breakfast,” “pay your bills on time, recycle, make your bed, aim high, say thank you to people and actually really mean it, ask for help when you need it, and put your phone away at the dinner table.”
“And know that what you tweet and post to Instagram today might be asked about in a job interview tomorrow or 20 years from tomorrow,” she said.
But her advice for career success: “Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.”