Oprah Winfrey Awarded The Medal of Freedom

Early in Oprah Winfrey’s career, her bosses
told her she should change her name to Susie. (Laughter.) I have to pause here to say I
got the same advice. (Laughter and applause.) They didn’t say I should be named “Susie,”
but they suggested I should change my name. (Laughter.) People can relate to Susie, that’s
what they said. It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate to Oprah just fine. In more than 4,500 episodes of her show, her
message was always, “You can.” “You can do and you can be and you can grow and
it can be better.” And she was living proof, rising from a childhood of poverty and abuse
to the pinnacle of the entertainment universe. But even with 40 Emmys, the distinction of
being the first black female billionaire, Oprah’s greatest strength has always been
her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves. Michelle and I count ourselves
among her many devoted fans and friends. As one of those fans wrote, “I didn’t know
I had a light in me until Oprah told me it was there.” What a great gift. Oprah G. Winfrey. (Applause.) Oprah G. Winfrey
is a global media icon. When she launched The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, there were
few women — and even fewer women of color — with a national platform to discuss the
issues and events shaping our times. But over the 25 years that followed, Oprah Winfrey’s
innate gift for tapping into our most fervent hopes and deepest fears drew millions of viewers
across every background, making her show the highest-rated talk show in television history.
Off screen, Oprah Winfrey has used her influence to support underserved communities and to
lift up the lives of young people — especially young women — around the world. In her story,
we are reminded that no dream can be deferred when we refuse to let life’s obstacles keep
us down. (Applause.)

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