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Dr Oprah Winfrey praises our university
2011-08-24

 

Dr Oprah Winfrey after receiving her honorary doctorate degree.
Photo: Rian Horn

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“I came 8 000 miles to say, thank you, Vrystaat!” and “God bless South Africa,” were the words Dr Oprah Winfrey used yesterday to respectively open and close her address to an overflowing Callie Human Centre on our Bloemfontein Campus.

Our university awarded an honorary doctorate in Education to Dr Winfrey during a stately, yet warm and cheerful affair yesterday, which saw the 4 500 seater Callie Human Centre packed to the rafters with adoring fans, staff members and students. 

The honorary doctorate is in recognition of her unparalleled dedication to improving the lives and futures of so many by improving education and ensuring that it is accessible to all. Through her award-winning show, The Oprah Winfrey Show (which concluded this year after 25 years of entertainment and service), and the various charity organisations she has established, Dr Winfrey has harnessed the power of her iconic stature in the struggle to eradicate poverty and make education accessible to all.

The ceremony’s audience was entertained by South African music legend, Ms Sibongile Khumalo, the Bloemfontein Children’s Choir, Bartimea School for the Deaf and Blind’s Sign Language Choir, and several other musical performers as well as dancers.

Dr Winfrey could not hold back her tears when Mr John Samuel, interim Director of our International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, described her as an “honorary daughter of South Africa”. She proved just how much the country means to her when she joined in the singing of the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikeleli, despite struggling with the words in some parts.

According to Dr Winfrey, her interest in our university began after she had read an article by Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, in which he emphasised the need for South Africans to stop accepting mediocrity, if ever the country is to develop to its full potential.

She asked Mr Samuel to convey her message of support to Prof. Jansen and the wheels, which led to today’s great event, were set in motion. 

She also expressed her admiration of the transformation process at our university and our commitment to “reconciliation, peace and harmony”. “What has happened at the University of the Free State is nothing short of a miracle and this is truly what the New South Africa is about,” she said to loud cheers from the audience. 

To emphasise her point, she called the five workers from the Reitz video to the stage and used their forgiveness and acceptance of the students responsible for the video as an example of the healing achieved at the UFS. 

“Having seen this forgiveness has allowed me to expand my vision of what we can be.” She also delivered a message of encouragement and reminded students that anyone, despite their circumstances and background, could become successful and grow to overcome their obstacles, as she had done.

“Anyone can be successful if they put their mind to it, work hard and are diligent,” she said. “We must all strive for more than success, though, and fulfil the highest expression of ourselves as humans by realising who you are and what you are meant to be.”

Following her address, Dr Winfrey answered several questions from our students, giving them advice on, among other things, how to choose a career that is right for them, and good characteristics to look for in leaders and peers.

She also mentioned that several learners from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, which has its very first group of Grade 12 learners this year, would be visiting our university next month in order to help them select a university to attend next year.

 

Media Release
25 June 2011
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za
  

 

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