Oprah Winfrey made her Essence Festival debut Saturday with a nearly hour-long inspirational speech

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated July 03, 2016 10:55 AM
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival

Oprah Winfrey brought back some of her talk show magic at the Essence Fest in New Orleans on Saturday, inspiring the crowd with a speech intended to help women of color achieve their dreams.

“This is my first time here. What took me so long? What took me so long?” she began, per The Times-Picayune. “All I got to say is it’s beyond happiness to be here.”

Wearing a red dress that showed off her new weight loss, the Weight Watchers spokeswoman addressed the largest gathering of African-American women in the nation for the first time on the festival’s Empowerment Experience stage. Notables included Selma director Ava DuVernay and her best friend Gayle King.

The OWN mogul, 62, got spiritual when she delivered a succinct lesson to the crowd: “The key, the secret, the magic is to surrender to God’s dream for you.”

Winfrey, who overcame poverty, sexual abuse and the loss of a premature baby boy at just 14, told the crowd that before she became a household name she took note of what it appeared successful white people had, and she was surprised at her discovery: trees.

“I used to dream the dream driving through the white peoples’ neighborhoods. You’d see their fancy houses. Sometimes they had gates, but all of them had trees. I thought, ‘Oh, rich people have trees. Some people want pocketbooks and cars, but I want me some trees,” she said.

“About three years ago, I was sitting in my kitchen window, making coffee in the morning and I saw the six trees,” she continued. “I was making the coffee. I saw the six trees. I went out on the porch to actually count the six trees, and this is what I noticed: That I could dream the six, but beyond the six trees in my kitchen window are 3,687 trees. How do I know? Because I had them counted. I dreamed the six. That was as much as my small mind and my imagination can see. I dreamed the six, but God can see beyond the six.”

Winfrey had the crowd on their feet and in tears during her nearly hour-long speech at the festival, which was announced just days earlier. Here are a few additional highlights.

• “I am living the dream. And I want you to live the dream because I’m not living the dream because I’m special. I’m living the dream because I was obedient to the call of the dream. I want you to leave here today thinking about what is the dream for you? What is God’s dream for you? What does the creator’s dream hold for you? So often we spend our lives hoping and wishing and hoping and wishing and desiring things. This is what I know for sure: You don’t get what you hope for. You don’t get get what you wish for. You get what you believe.”

RELATED VIDEO: WATCH: Oprah Gives a Moving Speech at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

• “You have no power over any territory other than your own, but you are the master of that. You get to be the captain of your own soul and if you just manage that, if you just took care of your territory, all the glorious, glorious, glorious wondrous opportunities and possibilities are waiting for you. The question is, what are you resisting?”

• “Your life is big. Your life is huge, and we spend so much time wanting to be in somebody else’s life, and you don’t get honored, you don’t get revered, you don’t get celebrated wanting what somebody else has.”