Save to Pocket
Commencement Addresses

Oprah Winfrey to USC’s Class of 2018: ‘Declare war on cynicism’

Below are excerpts and video of Oprah Winfrey’s commencement speech to USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Class of 2018:

Everything around us, including and in particular the Internet and social media, is now being used to erode trust in our institutions, enter fear in our elections and wreak havoc on our infrastructure. It enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short and false stories from phony sites to run circles around major news outlets.

— — —

You will become the new editorial gate-keepers, an ambitious army of truth-seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, with the insights 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. You can answer false narratives with real information and you can set the record straight.

— — —

If you could just capture the humanity of the people and the stories that you’re telling, you can get that much closer to your own humanity and you can confront your bias and you can build your credibility and hone your instincts and compound your compassion. You can use your gifts — that’s what you’re here to do — to illuminate the darkness in our world.

— — —


It’s commencement season!

Follow Ladders’ Commencement Addresses magazine on Flipboard to watch and read all of the most inspiring speeches from this year and years past.


This moment in time, this is your time to rise, even though you can’t go anywhere — you can’t stand in line at Starbucks, you can’t go to a party, you can’t go anywhere without everyone talking about how bad things are, how terrible it is. And this is what I know: The problem is everybody is meeting hysteria with more hysteria, and then we just are all becoming hysterical, and it’s getting worse.

— — —

In about an hour and a half, you’re going to be catapulted into a world that appears to have gone off its rocker.

— — —

The homeless need opportunity, the addicted need treatment, the Dreamers need protection, the prison system needs reforming, the LGBTQ community needs acceptance, the social safety net needs saving, and the misogyny needs to stop.

— — —

Here and now, I believe, you have to declare war on one of our most dangerous enemies, and that is cynicism. Because when that little creature sinks its hooks into you, it’ll cloud your clarity, it’ll compromise your integrity, it’ll lower your standards, it’ll choke your empathy, and sooner or later, cynicism shatters your faith.

— — —

I hesitate to say this because the rumors from my last big speech have finally died down, but here it is: Vote. 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’ve not done right by you, if their policies are at odds with your core beliefs, then you have a responsibility to send them packing.

If they go low — thank you, Michelle Obama — we go to the polls. People died for that right. I think about it every time I cast a vote, so don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.

— — —

I hold you in the light, and I wish you curiosity and confidence, and I wish you ethics and enlightenment. I wish you guts. I hope you shake things up, and when the time comes to bet on yourself, I hope you double down.

More from Ladders