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What lessons does Oprah want these girls to know for sure when they walk through the doors of her academy into the world? Her answer leaps from her own experience. She wants them to know that they are not defined by their circumstances. "What I learned at a very early age was that I was responsible for my life. And as I became more spiritually conscious, I learned that we all are responsible for ourselves, that you create your own reality by the way you think and therefore act. You cannot blame apartheid, your parents, your circumstances, because you are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything."

That lesson is Oprah's own credo: "Trust your instincts. Honor your own truth. Discern it, know it and follow it. Is it right for me? That's my great business lesson." She'll be teaching the girls by satellite from Chicago, and sometimes in person, joining a staff of the finest teachers she can gather.

For those who are chosen, move-in day at the school will no doubt astound the girls and their families. "I want their parents to know they can trust me with their girls," she says. The thought of that day intensely affects her. Tears stream down her cheeks, perhaps a remnant of grief over her own early struggles, certainly hope for the future of these children: "It's the first time in my life that I've said I feel proud of myself." Turning to go, she says, "It has been a great day...a great day!"


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