Full text – Oprah Winfrey delivers 2015 Harry’s Last Lecture on a Meaningful Life at Stanford University
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Harry Elam – Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford
Thank you and good evening. I am Professor Harry Elam, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford.
And on behalf of the president and the provost, I welcome you to tonight’s very special Rathbun Lecture with our featured speaker, Ms. Oprah Winfrey.
Now, I got to tell you that you’re in for a special treat. She spoke to students this afternoon, and the generosity, the commitment, the concern she had in terms of the issues she spoke about touched all of us there and will touch you tonight.
The Harry and Amelia Rathbun Fund for Exploring What Leads to a Meaningful Life was made possible by an endowment established in 2006 by the Foundation for Global Community, which was directed by the Rathbuns’ son, Richard Rathbun.
“Harry’s Last Lecture,” as it’s affectionately been called, is the title tonight. And as someone named Harry, I think it’s a great name.
The Rathbun Fund supports the mission of the Office of Religious Life by helping students and others discover and reflect upon issues of meaning and purpose during their time of potentially monumental growth in character and spirit here at college.
In this day and age, when students are driven by the pace of technology and the pressures to achieve, the increasing concerns over employment after college, it is all the more important to have time to reflect, the space to think, not only about yourself but about the great world around you.
The Rathbun Fund has created both a timeless and timely opportunity to help Stanford deepen the student experience with a focus on thoughtful inquiry, the pursuit of ethical engagement, and a dedication to making the world a better place to live.
And now to tell you more about the Rathbun Lecture and to introduce tonight’s esteemed speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce the Dean of Religious Life, Dr. Jane Shaw.
Dr. Jane Shaw – Dean of Religious Life
Welcome to Memorial Church, this extraordinary sacred space that Jane Stanford put at the heart of our campus, and welcome to the 2015 Rathbun Lecture.
All that we do here in this space, in the circle, which is our interfaith space, and at Windhover, our recently opened contemplation center, is designed to explore together as a body, as a community what it means to lead a meaningful life. In our work as the office for religious life, we encourage members of this university to explore both spirituality and religion. We support the working out of ethical values and we host discussions, arts events, and of course, worship, all designed to help us think and practice a meaningful life.
The Harry and Amelia Rathbun Fund for exploring what leads to such a meaningful life generously supports much of our work. It was made possible by an endowment established in 2006 by the Foundation for Global Community. The centerpiece is this visiting fellow program, which brings notable, experienced, and wise people to campus each year.
It is our pleasure this evening to welcome and thank the board members and participants in the Foundation for Global Community, many of whom are here with us tonight and some may be watching at home. And in particular, we warmly welcome Harry and Amelia’s son, Richard Rathbun, his wife Lacey, and their two children, Ryan and Milo. We’re so delighted you could join us tonight.
And now, it is my very great pleasure, and of course, my privilege to introduce the Rathbun visiting fellow for 2015, Oprah Winfrey.
She has to have a little more of an introduction than that, because she has so many accomplishments. She is known to us as the talk show host who changed the very nature of interviewing on her show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran for 25 years. She is known to us as a brilliant actor, who especially starred in films such as The Color Purple and The Butler. She has Harpo Productions and produced the extraordinary film, Selma. She is the founder of O Magazine, which has 16 million readers throughout the world. She is an acclaimed author herself, with a passion for reading, who has, through her book club, encouraged so many others to discover the pleasure of imaginatively entering the worlds of others through books. She has won many awards for all her incredible work, including many Emmys and most recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is an exceptionally generous philanthropist who has founded a girls’ school in South Africa.
Ms. Winfrey’s accomplishments are many, and she would say that they all emerged from her deep sense of spirit and her spiritual life. So she is with us tonight here to give the Rathbun Lecture as one of the great spiritual leaders of our time. She encourages millions to explore what it means to have a spiritual life. And that, she’s told us today, is her very, very favorite thing to do.
You can catch her having probing conversations with other spiritual leaders on Sunday mornings on her Super Soul Sunday television program. You can read her wisdom in her most recent book, What I Know for Sure. You can engage in deep learning in her life class as it goes on tour around the country.
But this evening, we are fortunate, we are blessed, and we are truly grateful that she will be speaking to us about what leads to a meaningful life.
Distinguished guests, students, faculty, staff, Ms. Oprah Winfrey.
Hi, y’all. Woo! Y’all just don’t even know what this means to me to be standing in this hall.
In 1970, before you were you even a thought in the mind of God or in the seed of your parents, I was in an oratorical contest as a junior at East High School. And the great victory for us as state champions was to have our national championship here at Stanford in this very church. And as I stand here today, I lost the contest, but I won the prize.
Wow, I know, I came in today and I went, oh my gosh, I made it.
Dean Shaw, that introduction moves me, because one of my goals as a human being has been to evolve to the point of being a student in the spiritual realm enough that I could be able to bestow some of my knowledge, the information I’ve gathered over the years from thousands of interviews in such a way that I could call myself a teacher. And I dared not call myself a teacher until hearing it from you, and because you have said I’m a teacher and you are here at Stanford, I believe you. I’m going to take that. So thank you.