Five quotes from Oprah Winfrey's Mandela tribute

30 November 2018 - 10:39 By Odwa Mjo
Oprah Winfrey delivered a powerful tribute to late former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday.
Oprah Winfrey delivered a powerful tribute to late former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday.
Image: Anthony HARVEY / AFP

Hundreds flocked to hear Oprah Winfrey pay tribute to Nelson Mandela at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted a dialogue called Isithunzi sabafazi, with a panel of four women chaired by Redi Tlhabi. 

Winfrey was joined by executive director of UN Women and former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Mandela's widow Graça Machel and her daughter, Josina Machel.

Winfrey delivered the keynote speech that had many in the crowd cheering.

She expressed her love for SA, noting that this was her 36th visit to the

Here are 5  quotes from Winfrey’s tribute.

1. “I believe women will save SA”

Winfrey said this was what gave her the idea to build her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which opened in Johannesburg in 2007. It was done in support of Mandela’s vision to alleviate poverty. 

“We love the men, but we believe that women are the ones to do it.” 

More than 190 graduates from the school are studying at universities across the world.  

2. 10 nights, 10 days and 29 meals with Nelson Mandela.  

The story of how Winfrey spent Christmas  at the Mandela home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, in 2002, is one of her favourites. 

“I don’t have 10 days and 10 nights worth of conversation. What am I going to do?”

Winfrey said her life-changing dinner-table conversations with Mandela allowed her to be comfortable with the struggle icon, to the point where they would just sit in silence and read the paper.

“It was the most amazing, fantastical thing that has ever happened to me, of all the things that have happened in my life. 

“I wanted to sit at dinner with a notepad, but I didn’t. What I learned in those 10 days and nights, and 29 meals, was that his goodness, his integrity, his soul could not be contained in a seven-by-nine-foot cell.”

3. “I’m so full my cup is running over”
She urged women to take care of themselves first and to prioritise their own well-being, before giving to others. 

“For a long time I was afraid when people would say to me, ‘Oh, she’s so full of herself’. I would hide behind that until I recognised that unless you are full, you don’t have enough to give to anybody else.”

4. “I come as one, but stand as 10,000”

Quoting her late mentor, Maya Angelou, Winfrey encouraged the audience to always carry the legacy of those who came before them in everything they did.

“Every time that I walk into a boardroom and I am the only woman in the boardroom or the only person of colour within a 50km radius, I walk into the room and I whisper to myself, ‘I come as one, but stand as 10,000’. 

“Who are your 10,000?” she asked. Winfrey stressed that it was important to take lessons from the experiences of our ancestors and to continue their legacy.

“Take their crowns, put it on your head and wear it!”

5. “How can I be used for a cause that is greater than myself?”

“Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service,” she said, quoting Martin Luther King Jnr. 

Winfrey expanded on service and the role individuals should play in fulfilling a cause that was bigger than them, in whatever job or space they occupied.

“I know everybody can’t build a school, but you can take care of the person closest to you.”