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The Oprah Winfrey Show Finale
Oprah.com | May 25, 2011
On September 8, 1986, the first national episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast into homes across America. Now, 25 years later, Oprah steps onto the stage for the last time to share her greatest lessons and hopes for her viewers.
"After deliberating for some time, we decided to do what we do best, and that is a show about and with everyday people. This show always allows people, hopefully, to understand the power they have to change their own lives. If there's one thread running through each show we do, it is the message that you are not alone. Twenty-five years and I'm still saying thank you, America. Thank you so much. There are no words to match this moment. Every word I've ever spoken from this stage of The Oprah Show for 4,561 days of my life is what this moment is all about.
"When I came here, I was about to turn 30 years old. I didn't have a vision or a lot of great expectations. Stedman talks about vision all the time, but I didn't have one when I came here. I just wanted to do a good job and cause no harm. ... That first day was a shock to me. There was no audience. There I am in my best Anne Klein II velour outfit, my guests were a few Chicago football players, New Year's Day, 1984. ... I needed people. I needed to have you to gauge how things were going during the show, if you were responding, if you were laughing, if you were tracking with me. So after that first show, we put up some folding chairs in the audience. We brought in the staff. Secretaries. Anybody we could find in the building and filled the first rows with staff people and the rest with people off the street that we bribed with doughnuts and coffee, and we'd say, 'Come in.'
"Two years later, when we went national, I remember at the time, Roger King told me that one station manager said that he'd rather put a potato in a chair in his market than have a big black girl with a funny name. And in spite of that, from Memphis to Macon, from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, from New York to New Orleans, you all let me in."
Oprah and Tina Turner
"The first week we went national, I remember I got a letter from a woman named Carrie in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Carrie said, 'Oprah, watching you be yourself makes me want to be more of myself.' That was and still remains one of the nicest things I ever heard. What Carrie felt is what I wanted for every single one of you. I wanted to encourage you to be more of yourself just as you all encouraged me, and you cheered me on and occasionally complained about my outfits, my big hair and earrings the size of napkins. Now I see you had every reason to.
"Soon after I started the show, something shifted for me. It really did. I started the show as a job and was very happy to get the job, but it was not long before I understood that there was something else going on here. More than just job satisfaction. Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me. I became your surrogate — to ask the questions, deliver the answers, learn, grow, expand my thinking, challenge my beliefs and the way I looked at the world. I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me.
"Sometimes I was the teacher, and more often, you taught me. It is no coincidence that I always wanted to be a teacher and I ended up in the world's biggest classroom. And this, my friends, will be our last class from the stage.