20 May 2017, Smith University, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA
For many years, I was in television. I've been in television since I was 19 years old. I started anchoring the news in Nashville at 19. And in the beginning, when you're 19, you're just happy to have a job. I was happy to be on TV. And I would run into people in the grocery store, and they would say, "Oh, you're that lady. You're on TV?"
"Yeah, I'm on TV."
It wasn't until I was about 30 years old, coming to Chicago, that I realised that I no longer wanted to just be on TV. I was actually interviewing members of the Ku Klux Klan one day, skinheads, from the Ku Klux Klan. You can learn from everything. No opportunity is wasted. And in the middle of the interview, I saw them signalling each other. And I recognised that I thought I was having a conversation, exposing how crazy their ideals were. And watching them signal each other, I could see that they were also having a private conversation. I thought I was using them to expose hatred and vitriol. But they were using me as their recruitment platform.
So I made a decision that I would no longer be used by television, that I would figure out a way to let television be used by me, to turn it into a platform that could be of service to the viewers. And in the moment of that decision, my life changed, because I no longer was just doing a show. I was no longer just being on a show. I made the clear intention to use every show to inform, to encourage, to inspire, to uplift, and entertain at the same time. And I decided that the notion of intention, knowing why you want to do something, not just doing it, but understanding the why behind the doing, could also change the paradigm for every show.
So I said to my producers, I will only do shows that are in alignment with my truth. I will not allow myself to be put in a chair, talking to somebody, who I am not aligned to in some way, that I can present myself in truth. I will not fake it.
I will not fake it.
This understanding that there is an alignment between who you are and what you do is what real authentic, what authentic empowerment is. It's what Gary Zukav calls in his book, Seat of the Soul, the real, true empowerment. The only empowerment is when your personality, when you use who you are, what you've been given, the gifts you hold, to serve the calling that you have been brought to earth to serve.
So when I figured that out, the show took off. The secret is, how do you use yourself? How do you use your whole self, your being, your full expression, as an offering really, as a full, open prayer to life?
That's what I've learned to do. My entire life is an open prayer to that which is the greatest, highest calling for myself.
So you actually do what Smith has been encouraging you to do since you entered the gates. You shift the paradigm to service. Service, you say. You save a life. You ask this question. Everybody who is still exploring where to go next, you ask the question, "How can I be used? Life, use me. Use me. Show me, through my talents and my gifts. Show me through what I know, what I need to know, what I have yet to learn, how to be used in the greater service to life."
You ask that question, and I guarantee you, Smithies, the answer will be returned and rewarded to you with fulfillment, which is really the major definition of success for me. If you ask the question, "How can I be used," and then get still enough for the answer. Because what I've discovered in all of my years of conversations and interviews with people, anytime you have to go and ask everybody else what is the answer to a question, it means you haven't gotten still enough yourself to quiet out the noise of the world, to listen to your inner GPS, your inner guidance that always knows, that knows right now what is the best next right thing for you to do.
It's your calling to serve because you are a woman of the world. And whatever your chosen field, I know this, that when you shift the paradigm to how can I be used? How can I use my art, my painting, my music, my medical skills? How can I use my listening, my caring, in service to that which is greater than myself? You shift the paradigm to service and the reward comes.
What I love about what has happened with all of the Smithy girls here is that you've learned to see the other. Don't think I didn't notice all the Black Lives Matter signs on all the houses, which I'm told you all, each house through discussions and discernment, came to the conclusion that that would be the banner that would be carried throughout all of the houses, that you all understood that social justice for all really matters.
I appreciate that. I appreciate that. You see the other, notice the other, and recognise that our differences make us whole, that our differences make us a whole nation. Differences make us a whole wide world.
You know, the reason why I could talk to over 37,858 people, but who's counting, in individual conversations from every place and station in life, is that I figured out early on what Maya Angelou had taught me, and that is we are more alike than we are different.
And the most important thing I learned, I want to share with you. I learned it through thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of conversations, every day, where I tried to be so fully present with every person, to see them, to hear them. And I started to notice early in my career, that after every interview, no matter who I was talking to, the person would say, when I finished the interview, "Was that okay? Was that okay? How was that? How'd that go? Did I do all right?"
So I started to think about, what is that? Why does everybody, including Beyonce, with all her Beyonceness, at the end of dancing on stage, hand me the mic and say, "Was that okay?" It's because every person, every argument you've ever been in, every confrontation or conversation, every person just wants to know they were heard. Every argument you have with your friends is not about whatever it is you're arguing about. It's ultimately about, "Do you hear me?" And many of you have even said, when you don't feel you're being heard, "Can you just hear me? Can you hear me? Can you see me? And could you understand that what I'm saying to you actually matters?"
And I have found that no matter what the conversation, or the confrontation, or the experience, if you can mirror back to that person, "Yes, I hear you, and this is what you're saying." Whether you choose to do it or not, just being heard makes all the difference, being validated, because everybody wants to be heard.
And what I've learned is, when you can do that, and create your work and your life based on an intention to serve with purpose, make it your intention to serve through your life with purpose, you will have a blessed life.