Oprah Winfrey | Credit: Courtesy of UCSB

Oprah Winfrey addressed UC Santa Barbara’s 2021 undergraduate class of 4,680 on Saturday morning during her keynote speech, focusing on all the class has endured through the pandemic.

“You’ll be telling the story to your grandchildren, the story of surviving a global health crisis, of thriving and graduating during a pandemic,” Winfrey said. “You already have in your young lives created a legacy of resilience.

“You met every obstacle head-on time and again. I know many of you wanted to give up; sometimes you didn’t even want to get out of bed. That remote learning thing has worn you out. But all the while, you were building strength.”

Credit: UCSB/Matthew Perko

Winfrey’s message was on par with Chancellor Henry Yang, who reflected on not just the pandemic but also the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow that hit during this class’s freshman year. “The same passion and optimism that helped you face these challenges will serve you tremendously as you embark on life’s next chapter,” Yang said.

Winfrey’s greatest piece of advice to the graduates was one she has had great success with herself. She encouraged students to always make themselves of service, saying that financial success will follow if they prioritize service. She said that her talk show did not take off until she made it her main goal to search for the best way to serve the audience and become a force of good. 

“Ask yourself, how can I be used in service to something greater than yourself, even when you just need the rent paid and your car insurance is overdue,” Winfrey said.

Graduate Krishna Balagopal, who earned her degree in Psychological & Brain Sciences, kicked off the virtual ceremony through her singing. She sang the National Anthem at the beginning and closed the ceremony with the University of California song.

Of the 4,680 undergraduates, 32.6 percent are transfer students, of which 30.5 percent are from California Community Colleges. The demographic breakdown of the class is as follows:

  • 32.6 percent white
  • 24.9 percent Chicano/Latino
  • 5.2 percent African American
  • 18.3 percent Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 1.6 percent Native American
  • 2.8 percent Pilipino
  • 3.6 percent E. Indian/Pakistani
  • 9.8 percent international

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