Renowned talk show host and Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey was the keynote speaker for UCSB’s virtual commencement Saturday, encouraging graduates with a message of service and strength.
In a pre-recorded speech, Ms. Winfrey praised graduates for their resilience throughout the past 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting on the legacy that the class will leave behind when the pandemic ends.
“You already have in your young lives created a legacy of resilience,” Ms. Winfrey said. “Not giving up when the challenges kept coming, making virtual reality your reality, all the while learning and growing and now moving into the next chapter of your lives.”
Ms. Winfrey said that as the world moves out of the pandemic, this class of graduates will be the gatekeepers of a new way of life. After overcoming various challenges, Ms. Winfrey said the graduates have what it takes to make the world a better place.
“Because of what you’ve been through, not just in this past year, but in every life encounter that challenged you, you now have power,” Ms. Winfrey said. “You have the energy and idealism that it’s going to take to change the world that you’re now inheriting.”
“And my hope is that you will harness your UC Santa Barbara education, your creativity, your valor, your voice, your vote, all that you witness, all that you hunger for, all that you know to be true, and use it to lead us to a new way of being and collaborating on the planet with each other.”
To conclude her speech, Ms. Winfrey charged students to “re-invent our post-pandemic way of being in the world” by choosing to center their lives on service.
“However you choose to use the skills and talents that you’ve been developing while at UCSB, let what you choose be in service to something greater than your financial gain,” Ms. Winfrey said. “And I say that as one who has enjoyed a lot of financial gain. Choose to serve no matter your calling — your customers, your clients, your patients, your audience. This is what I know — if your paradigm is service, you will be successful.”
Saturday’s virtual commencement ceremony capped off a week of graduation exercises on UCSB’s campus. During the past week, UCSB welcomed more than 20,000 graduates and guests to campus to celebrate various departmental ceremonies.
Henry T. Yang, chancellor of the university, expressed pride in the accomplishments of this year’s class during Saturday’s virtual ceremony.
“You have demonstrated to all of us just how special you are,” Dr. Yang said. “You have inspired us with your intelligence, perseverance, resilience and conviction, this has been especially true over the past 15 months.”
He added, “Each of you carries a brave and unique story of triumph, one that will stay with you throughout your lives. There is one thing I want you to remember, and that is how you have helped to make us a better university. For that, I say thank you.”