Oprah Offers Powerful Words About "Fake News" During USC Commencement Speech
On May 11, Oprah Winfrey delivered a commencement speech to the graduating students of the USC Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism in LA. Much like her acceptance speech at this year's Golden Globes, the talk was filled to the brim with powerful wisdom, astonishing comfort, and too many powerful words to count. The speech is embedded in its entirety above; Oprah is the grand finale, and she begins speaking at the 51-minute mark. While we could fawn over her Maya Angelou quotes or the easy and fantastic life lessons she tacks on the end, there's one especially meaty part of the speech that could really make a profound impact.
Oprah starts with the bad news, which is basically a commentary on the state of the world in her eyes.
"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 hands advertisers a map to our deepest desires, it enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short, and false stories from phony sites to run circles around major news outlets. We have literally walked into traffic while staring at our phones."
When she gets to the "good news" section, she talks a lot about the "fake news" epidemic that seems to have infected the reporting space. But Oprah is not merely bemoaning the way things are. She's offering her best advice on how to untangle the webs upon webs of lies.
"The good news is that there really is a solution. And the solution is each and every one of you, because you will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, the insight, 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, and you can answer false narratives with real information. And you can set the record straight. And you also have the ability and power to give voice . . . to people who desperately now need to tell their stories and have their stories told.
"The problem is everyone is meeting hysteria with more hysteria, and we just are all becoming hysterical. And it's getting worse. What I've learned in all these years is that we're not supposed to match it or even get locked into resisting or pushing against it. We're supposed to see this moment in time for what it is. We're supposed to see through it and transcend it. That is how you overcome hysteria, and that is how you overcome the sniping at one another, the trolling, the mean spirited partisanship on both sides of the aisle, the divisiveness, the injustices, the out and out hatred. You use it. Use this moment to encourage you to embolden you and to literally push you into the rising of your life.
"So your job now is to take everything you've learned here and use what you've learned to challenge the left to challenge the right and the center. When you see something, you say something, and you say it with the facts and the reporting to back it. Here's what you have to do: you make the choice every day, every single day, to exemplify honesty. Because the truth, let me tell you something about the truth.
"The truth exonerates,and it convicts. It disinfects, and it galvanizes. The truth has always been and will always be our shield against corruption our shield against greed and despair the truth is our saving grace. And not only are you here . . . to tell it, to write it, to proclaim it, to speak it, but to be it. Be the truth. Be the truth."