Home Health & Education TSU’S Oprah Winfrey inspires students with powerful commencement address

TSU’S Oprah Winfrey inspires students with powerful commencement address

by PRIDE Newsdesk
President Glenda Glover and TSU Alumna Oprah Winfrey enter Hale Stadium for the 2023 Spring Undergraduate Commencement.

by Emmanuel Freeman

Oprah! Oprah! Oprah! That deafening chant permeated the 12,000-seat Hale Stadium on Saturday as Oprah Winfrey, Tennessee State University’s most famous alumnus, made her triumphant return to her alma mater as the spring undergraduate commencement speaker. The throng of excited fans poured onto the field trying to touch, get a glimpse of Winfrey, or take selfies with the former student who has gone on to gain fame as a global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actress, and author. Oprah’s speech later did not disappoint as many jubilant graduates, parents, alumni, and others spoke about being inspired by one of the most respected and admired figures in the world.

TSU President Glenda Glover, at the end of Winfrey’s speech, conferred on her the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, as a mark of respect and honor from her university.

“Oprah is really here at my graduation, wow! This is the most exciting moment of my life,” said Lauren Graves, of Louisville, Kentucky, who received her degree in social work. “I think it is awesome to be able to see someone as successful as Oprah come back and celebrate and inspire the next generation of successful individuals. It was an honor to be able to see her today, and to know that I am part of an alumni that include her.”

Kenneth Rolle II, outgoing president of the Student Government Association and urban studies major, couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I am motivated and inspired,” he said. “Dr. Winfrey just gave a great motivational speech about moving forward and how not to let obstacles get in our way. She gave her testimony about the obstacles she faced at TSU and how she overcame them. I am very blessed to be able to follow in her footsteps being a TSU alum. I can’t wait to have a similar impact on the world post-graduation.”

“This has been a long time coming and to top it with Oprah, is mind-blowing,” said Jada Carter, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who received her degree in accounting. “I am very excited. This feels so unreal. I love to see Oprah. She is very influential. I really look up to her. She is a very phenomenal individual. She gave an outstanding commencement speech.”

Jada’s parents, father Henry, and mom Viola, made the long trek from Milwaukee to see their daughter walk across the stage, but knowing that Oprah would be the speaker was an extra motivation, they said.

“Tennessee State has been an incredible opportunity for our daughter and bringing back Oprah as the speaker for her graduation is incredible and awesome,” said Viola Carter. “It is amazing that she shows the students how many opportunities are available to them. This lets our children know the greatness that they can become.”

“Oprah’s commencement speech was inspiring and one that will help guide us to our next level of life,” said Regina Rogers of Nashville. She earned her degree in arts and science. “I really love her speech. I am going to take her speech and apply it to my life from here on.”

U.S. Rep. Thompson delivers keynote at TSU Graduate Commencement

Congressman Bennie G.  Thompson delivered the keynote address at TSU’s graduate commencement.

United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, the man who led the congressional investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, told Tennessee State University graduate school candidates to be aware of forces that are trying to change the course of democracy in the country by twisting facts and reality to suit their personal agendas.

Thompson, a civil rights champion, who represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the keynote speaker at TSU’s graduate commencement.

Now serving his 15th term in Congress, Thompson reminded the graduates to make the best of their education and remember to give back to their institution to ensure its continued growth and success.

“So, for this institution and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities to survive in these turbulent times, you are going to have to support it,” he said. “Some of you will become doctors, lawyers, or whatever, but unless you understand what you are faced with right now and what you need to do in this country it is all for naught—because if graduates don’t come back and help, these institutions are in trouble.”

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