May 30th, 2013
05:09 PM ET

When Oprah speaks, Harvard listens

By Ann Hoevel, CNN

(CNN) - Harvard University's 362nd commencement ceremony was held this afternoon, as onlookers fanned themselves on a warm Massachusetts day.

Centenarians, accomplished alumni and graduates were recognized during the celebrations. The school's band and choir performed a rousing rendition of the "Harvardiana" march.  But the star of the show was commencement speaker Oprah Winfrey, who also received an honorary Harvard degree earlier in the day.

Wearing an appropriate shade of crimson, Winfrey took the podium to a standing ovation.

"Oh my goodness, IIIIII'M AT HAAAAAARRRRRVAAAARD!" she boasted in traditional Oprah style. "Not too many little girls from rural Mississippi have made it all the way here to Cambridge," she said, addressing her remarks to anyone who has "felt inferior or disadvantaged or screwed by life."

She started her speech by addressing the struggles and criticism she has endured in launching the OWN television network. The invitation to speak at the commencement, Winfrey said, came the day she read a particularly unkind headline about her network in USA Today. "And they're the nice paper!" she exclaimed.

She decided to turn her network around by the time she spoke to the Harvard class of 2013.

"Failure is just life trying to move us in a different direction," she told them. "This last year I had to spoon feed those words to myself."  Winfrey advised the graduates learn from their mistakes, "because every experience and encounter and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you who you are."

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