Oprah Winfrey declares that LGBTQ+ people are ‘under attack’ in powerful graduation speech

Oprah Winfrey stands behind a podium and microphone wearing a graduation outfit

Oprah Winfrey has spoken out about LGBTQ+ rights, gun violence and women’s rights in a powerful graduation speech at Tennessee State University (TSU).

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of TSU’s class of 2023 on Saturday (6 May) the legendary talk show host said her advice was to be good to at least one other person every single day, and that fulfilment is found in “making a difference”. 

Winfrey, who has long been a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, told graduates that while the political landscape is difficult right now, they can use their education to make a difference.

“You’ve witnessed the storming of the Capitol and the death of civility,” she began. “You’re acutely aware that voting rights are being gutted. Women’s rights are being dismantled, books are being banned, history is being rewritten. The Supreme Court is being corrupted… the LGBT+ community is under attack

“The leaders are behaving like children. Children are being gunned down by military-grade assault rifles. We live on a planet where there’s more than enough wrong to keep you busy trying to make things right for the rest of your natural life.”

On a more optimistic note, Winfrey added: “Everybody here wants to see you take your integrity, your curiosity, your creativity, your guts, and this new-found education of yours, and use it to make a difference. 

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“Everybody always thinks you’ve got to do something big and grand. I’ll tell you where you start: you start by being good to at least one other person every single day. Just start there.”

The Associated Press reported that Winfrey also reminisced about her own time at TSU, with the 69-year-old media mogul recalling how she was so busy beginning her TV career that she fell one credit short of graduating in 1975. 

Finally, in 1988, she was allowed to submit a paper to finish her degree, “right around the time I got my third Emmy,” she joked. 

Winfrey has conducted history-making interviews in the past few years with the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and actor Elliot Page

The Umbrella Academy star Page sat down with Winfrey in 2021 after coming out publicly as trans the year before, explaining that he wanted to use her large platform to share his experience in the wake of anti-LGBTQ+ bills

Speaking to Vanity Fair about the interview, Page said: “The rhetoric coming from anti-trans activists and anti-LGBTQ activists – it’s devastating. These bills are going to be responsible for the death of children. It’s that simple.

“[Talking to Oprah] felt like an opportunity to use a wide-reaching platform to speak from my heart about some of my experiences and the resources I’ve been able to access – whether therapy or surgery – that have allowed me to be alive, to live my life.”

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