Harpo Productions

If you had asked anyone in 1954 which child born that year would grow up to have a major impact on television, people’s lives and philanthropy around the world, it is likely that no one would have pointed to the black baby girl born to a poor, single mother in rural Mississippi, a baby named Oprah Winfrey. Yet Oprah overcame poverty, race and sex to become one of the wealthiest and one of the most influential people in the world. She is the embodiment of the self-made woman.

In the last three days, as she has brought The Oprah Winfrey Show to the end of its 25-year run, she has been celebrated for the gifts she has given to viewers and the educational opportunities she has provided for young people in the United States and in South Africa. Celebrities have honored her as a friend, and viewers have dreaded the hourlong hole they will find in their afternoon schedules.

In her final show on Wednesday, in which she stood alone onstage in her Harpo studio, she repeated a message that is one that resonates with us here at Women’s Voices for Change. “What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called,” she told her studio audience. “Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.”

She said that her life’s calling had become part of her television career and that she knew that would not be the case for everyone.

“You have to make a living; I understand that,” Oprah said. “But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

She encouraged everyone to find the place where they can serve:

Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have.

She concluded with: “I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say until we meet again. To God be the glory.”

(To read a transcript of her final show, click here. For video clips, click here.)

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