Oprah didn’t disappoint.

No, she didn’t buy everyone at Colorado College’s 145th graduation a car, as she did in 2004 for the studio audience of her TV show. But each of the 571 graduating students got to shake the hand of the billionaire media mogul and philanthropist as they received their diplomas after her commencement address at the Colorado Springs campus.

Along with the handshake and diploma, they got her latest book, “The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose.”

“That means you get a book. You get a book, and everybody gets a book,” she boomed, pointing at graduates seated in front of her, mimicking her famous car giveaway.

“It was a very surreal experience to see one of the most famous people in the world and hear her message of unity and love,” said Edmund Pendleton, a graduate from Arlington, Va., who earned an economics and political science degree. “It was an amazing way for me to end my four years here.”

Like many students, Pendleton said he was planning on saying something to Oprah Winfrey as he accepted her book. But he was too nervous to get any words out except, “Thank you.”

Graduate Solomon Mankin admitted he was also “a little bit star struck.”

“She’s a very big name,” he said.

Oprah’s message was as impactful as her presence, graduates said.

Aghi Jadhav of Sacramento, Calif., said what resonated was the idea that radically transforming the world is not about the whole issue but about the little things.

In rising to fame and fortune, Oprah said she “had appreciation for the small steps” because she was paying attention to her life.

“Small steps lead to big accomplishments,” she said. “Your life isn’t some big break; it’s about taking one transformative life step at a time.”

Oprah joins Colorado College list of commencement speakers that's a who's who of personalities

Take your pick, Oprah said, in ticking off a litany of today’s issues — gun violence, media bias, protection for “Dreamers,” homelessness, prison reform, misogyny and other societal ills.

“You cannot fix everything. What you can do here and now is make a decision — life is about decisions. The decision is that you will use your life in service.

“You will offer your talent however you can, and you will radically transform every moment you’re in. That leads to bigger moments. Success is a process.”

Mankin said he found Winfrey’s address to graduates inspiring and reassuring.

“For her to say all is not for us to worry about, but for us to be very determined about what we want to do was powerful,” he said.

Oprah spoke of how she started her career when she went to work in radio at age 16, then got hired at a television station. At age 28, she was demoted from evening news reporter to talk show host because she got too emotional while covering depressing stories.

But that seeming failure led Oprah to discover her true purpose: “to be an inspiration to be a force for good, to allow people to see the good in themselves.”

Her talk show didn’t take off until she interviewed some members of the Ku Klux Klan and figured out they were using her and her platform to advance their cause.

That prompted her to ask, “How can I use this show to be a service to the viewers, and that transformed the show “with the intention of only doing what was in service to the people who were watching.”

Oprah said she understands new graduates have a lot of anxiety about the future and asked them to take a deep breath and repeat after her: “Everything is always working out for me.

“That’s my mantra. I want you to make it yours.”

But first, graduates need a job, she said, drawing laughter. It doesn’t have to be a life mission or passion at first, but rather something to pay the rent and move out of your parents’ house, with the hope that the path to something greater will unfold and make their education pay off.

As she told one of the girls from her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, “Your purpose is to do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

That thought stood out for Alexandra Wong-Appel, a psychology major from San Diego.

“I really appreciated her realistic life advice,” she said. “Like it’s important to secure a job and then go after the things you want.”

Wong-Appel was still running on an adrenaline high after the ceremony.

“Oprah said my name when she was handing me the book!” she said. “It was awesome to see such a wonderful woman who’s inspiring to women of color everywhere, including me, a woman of color, to know that when things seem a little dark, having confidence and courage is really important.”

Oprah repeated advice from her friend, poet and novelist Maya Angelou: “You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is every life you touch.”

“The most important thing is how you’re touching other people’s lives,” Oprah said.

Sunday’s graduation was the 19th in recent years that Oprah has attended for a former student of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, a boarding school for girls in South Africa, who went on to earn a college diploma in the United States.

In introducing Oprah, CC Class of 2019 graduate Palesa Mokoena said the woman she calls “Mom-O,” has invited her and other girls from the academy to her home for holidays and other occasions.

“She’s been an incredible mentor to me, and her promise to Nelson Mandela to build a school in South Africa changed the trajectory of my life,” Mokoena said.

“Mom-O is the constant reminder that I matter,” Mokoena said, adding that she struggled for a while about how to respond to the scholarships she received.

“Your happiness is my reward,” Oprah told her.

“That proves she’s truly invested in the development of the girl child,” Mokoena said.

She’s the second graduate South African academy to attend Colorado College. The first graduated in 2017, when Oprah was in the audience.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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