Education is the most amazing gift by Rabbi Judith Schindler

A decade ago, Oprah stayed as a guest in President Nelson Mandela’s home in South Africa for more than a week. After days of reflecting on the ideal gift to get him as a token of her gratitude, she came up with the perfect present.

So what do you get such a great man as Nelson Mandela as a gift? She offered to set up a school for girls. Quickly the thought would turn into the reality of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

In these crazy weeks of May, Oprah races across the country to attend the graduations of each of her girls. Two of them are at Johnson C. Smith University here in Charlotte. It is a school that I love. I was blessed to give the invocation at yesterday’s Commencement. Here are just a few of the many lessons Oprah taught me:

Education is the most amazing gift one can give. In the weeks leading up to the graduation, reporters called Oprah to see if she would boycott because of North Carolina’s HB2. She said that “Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t believe in or support any law discriminating against anybody, ever but… Nothing would keep me from being here to celebrate the promise that I made to Nelson Mandela over 10 years ago.”

She also taught me that…

No matter what you do, strive for excellence and people will notice you and want to work with you.

“Every stumble is not a fall, and every fall does not mean failure,” she said. When you stumble and fall, it’s God’s way of pushing you into another lane and on another path.

When wearing shoes, go for style and comfort. As we watched each passionate, bright, adorable, hopeful, optimistic, and excited graduate cross that JCSU stage, their shoes were a sight to see and a topic of our casual conversation. I pray that each of their next steps will lead them to be their best selves and, in doing so, make the world what it needs to be.

Thank you President Dr. Ron Carter for leading Johnson C. Smith with vision, brilliance, passion and love. You are giving Charlotte the best gift we could ever ask for!