Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future.
"I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference.
Mandela, 88, attended the opening ceremony of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg. He looked frail as he was helped on to the stage by his wife, Graca Machel, and Winfrey. But he beamed with joy and his speech resonated with pride.
"It is my hope that this school will become the dream of every South African girl and they will study hard and qualify for the school one day," he said in a firm voice.
Mandela thanked Winfrey for the "personal time and effort" she devoted to the school.
"This is not a distant donation but a project that clearly lies close to your heart," said the anti-apartheid leader who became multiracial South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994.
Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker, and director Spike Lee also were in attendance. Each guest was asked to bring a personally inscribed book for the library.
Winfrey has said that she decided to build her own school because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.
The $40 million academy aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid. (source)