Winfrey’s visit was a part of the 16th installment in Ball State graduate David Letterman’s Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop series.
The media icon was welcomed onto the stage at Emens Auditorium with a standing ovation. Many students had waited hours in line earlier this month and slept in tents to get tickets to the event.
“You camped out in this cold… I don’t know who I would do that for,” Winfrey said as she got comfortable in her chair.
For much of the hour plus conversation with Letterman, Winfrey shared her childhood struggles with the audience.
She spoke extensively about her difficult relationship with her mother, the beatings she received from her grandmother, and suffering through rape and sexual abuse as a child. She also opened up about having a baby as a child and how she knew losing the infant gave her a second chance at the life she desperately wanted.
“I really did believe there was a power greater than myself…” she said, adding that there was nothing in her life that she would ever take back.
“Everybody has a story and your story is as equally as valuable and important as my story,” said Winfrey. “My story just helped define and shape me as does everybody’s story.”
The queen of talk also shared her biggest regret with the Oprah Winfrey show.
“The one thing I most regret is I wasn’t able to move the needle far enough on abuse in this country,” she said.
She explained that too many people still don’t understand sexual abuse is not just about the act of abuse, but about the misuse of trust and shame that follow.
Winfrey also answered questions from students posting on Twitter. After the talk, some students felt like there wasn’t enough time for Winfrey to speak about her career and how she accomplished success.
“I wanted to know more about what she’s doing, more about switching from her show to having her own network and stuff like that and less about everything in the past,” said student Lauren Bell.
However, many agreed they were moved and inspired all the same.
“It just showed me that like you can pretty much come from not much and be very successful like she is,” said student Shanita Pinkton.
Previous guests brought by Letterman include Rachel Maddow, Ted Koppel and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Many students did not believe Letterman could top Winfrey’s visit.