Just when we thought graduation was a dud because of the pandemic, actor John Krasinski (Jack Ryan) gave the class of 2020 a reason to smile, toss their caps in the air and celebrate graduation season.
On Some Good News, his weekly YouTube show, Krasinski dedicated this week to honoring all graduates (yup the kindergarten babies, too) via a virtual Zoom commencement.
And the A-lister used his pull to score celebrities like Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai (who was also slated to graduate), Jon Stewart, Steven Spielberg and the godmother in your head, Oprah Winfrey, as graduation speakers.
Each speaker tackled a thoughtful question about life lessons from select graduates, including Harvard senior Amanda Gorman. In 2017, Gorman became the country’s youngest youth poet laureate. She was 16 and a freshman at Harvard.
Gorman, stunned to see Winfrey on her screen, asked the media pro to reflect and offer some advice: “Think about a time in your life that felt like a low point at the moment—but actually changed everything.”
Winfrey said she loved the question because it “feels like therapy.”
Winfrey recalled “the most influential” moment in her life when she was 22 and working as an anchor for Baltimore’s WJZ news station. “I was placed with an older gentlemen than didn’t want me to be there, but I didn’t know that,” Winfrey explained. A few months later, on April 1, 1977, she was called into a meeting with her bosses who said she “was no longer needed on the news.” Winfrey was demoted on April Fool’s Day and initially, she thought it was a joke.
“I am humiliated. I am embarrassed. I know that they are waiting fire me,” said the philanthropist. But instead of firing the on-air talent they demoted her to the local talk show.
That demotion changed the course of Winfrey’s life.
“The day I did my first talk show, I felt like I had come home to myself. I believe failure is an opportunity to move yourself in a different direction,” Winfrey told Gorman. “It gets better because you learn the lessons from the first time.”
The mogul ended her story by quoting her mentor and poet Maya Angelou, who said to her, “Baby, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”
She continued, “This is true, Amanda. There have been many times when you are on the ground and you’re gonna fly somewhere. This is my favorite moment in life, that when it’s really dark and dreary on the ground and you get in the plane and then in three minutes you shoot above the clouds and you see that sun was always there.”
Winfrey could have stopped there but she wasn’t finished dropping gems on young Gorman.
“I cannot wait to read your work, to see your work to feel your work…to know that the dream that your ancestors held for you, that you now carry that dream forward in such way—that you wear the crown that they made for you.”
It’s safe to say we’ll all watch when godmother Winfrey delivers her keynote speech for Facebook’s virtual graduation ceremony on May 11.