Philanthropist and media icon Oprah Winfrey took to the podium at Stanford University’s Memorial Church on Monday to talk about what it means to live a meaningful life.
She asked the more than 1,000 members of the Stanford community that had gathered in the worship space to close their eyes, breathe, and feel the pulse of their personal energy.
“Open your heart and quietly to yourself say the only prayer that’s ever needed: Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said. “You’re still here. You get another chance this day to do better and be better, another chance to become more of who you were created and what you’re created to fulfill. Thank you. Amen.”
Winfrey was there to deliver an annual lecture in honor of the late Professor Harry Rathburn, a former faculty member at Stanford Law School. The 61-year-old gave students a glimpse of the earliest parts of her spiritual formation, back when she was a child attending Sunday school classes in rural Mississippi.
“I’d always sit on the left-hand side, the left pew, in the second row, and listen to the preacher preach about the Lord, ‘thy God is a loving God’, and sometimes he’d say ‘thy God is a jealous God’, but most important, I heard him say, is ‘you are God’s child and through God, all things are possible.’ And I literally took him at his word,” Winfrey said.
She instructed the audience to start keeping a gratitude journal, a practice she began in the late 1980s. It was around that time that Winfrey started hosting the acclaimed “Oprah Winfrey Show,” which went on to air for 25 seasons.
Winfrey urged students to keep some sort of spiritual practice — whether it’s spending time creating art or making a conscious commitment to be kind.
Her favorite Bible verse is Acts 17:28, which reads, “In God, I move and breathe and have my being.” Winfrey said that this commitment towards a spiritual life is what kept her strong throughout the years.
“I know now that having that belief system, that something greater than me was in charge of my destiny, of my fate — that it wasn’t just me alone having to survive for myself, is the thing that, is the value, is the rock that has sustained me.”