Over the years, Oprah has interviewed close to 28,000 people from all walks of life. "There's nothing better than a fascinating conversation," she says. "Today we're looking back at some of the most memorable."
It's been almost 15 years since South Carolina mother Susan Smith made national headlines—first for her plea to find the person who took her two young sons; then for confessing that she pushed her own car into a lake with her children inside. Susan was found guilty of killing Michael, 3, and Alexander, 14 months, and sentenced to life in prison.
Her estranged husband, David Smith, appeared on The Oprah Show five years later in an emotional interview.
Almost a decade later, David says he's doing well. "It's been a very long, tough road—some severe depression," he says "But I'm still here. I'm making it every day."
David says he hasn't spoken to Susan Smith since she went to jail. "Sometimes I want to ... tell her how much pain she's put me through. ... But that will only give her the satisfaction that she still crosses my mind," he says. "I do want her to know that she almost killed me, but look who's still standing."
Since the tragedy, David has been given another chance at fatherhood. "I think God knew I had so much love to give another child. When she was born, ... I said, 'Savannah, I promise you right here, right now, that I won't be afraid to love you because of what happened to Michael and Alex," David says.
David has two children: Savannah, 8, and Nicholas, 6. "They both remind me in some ways of Michael and Alex," he says. "Savannah, she's real soft-hearted. She gets her feelings hurt very easily, same as Michael. Whereas Nicholas, he's very rambunctious. ... He's a lot like Alex."
Though he says he might be more overprotective than other parents, David says he's kept his promise to Savannah. "I don't want to take for granted any time I can spend with them now because I know how quickly that can change," he says.
Savannah and Nicholas are still too young to know the story of Michael and Alex, David says. "They know there were two little boys that their daddy loved, and they know that they're in heaven," he says. "Each one has asked different questions about Michael and Alex, and I always give them just enough at that time to satisfy the questions. I don't go into more detail than I have to," he says.
David says he still visits his sons' graves. "Sometimes it will be 1 in the afternoon, or I find myself out there at 3 in the morning in the rain," he says. "It's just whenever it hits me."
Today Michael and Alex would be 17 and 15, respectively, but David says they'll always be little boys to him. "I try to picture them at different ages and what they'd be doing," he says. "But it always just comes back to 3 and 14 months old. That's the way I remember them."
In April 2005, Oprah interviewed Jenny, a woman who'd previously been known as Jim, a married male college professor. "Jim told his wife, Deedie, that he had to have a sex change or he would die," Oprah says. "And get this—they stayed married."
After the interview, Oprah received a letter from Jenny and Deedie's oldest son, 13-year-old Zach. "Sometimes it's hard to have a family that's different," he wrote. "But most of the time I feel like the luckiest kid on earth."
Zach is 15 now and says he can hardly remember the time before Jenny's transition. "I remember Maddy before she was a woman, but I don't remember that time between Step 1 and Step 2," he says. Zach says he calls Jenny "Maddy" because it's a combination of mommy and daddy.
When Zach's friends ask who Maddy is, Zach says he's honest. "I say, 'My mom who used to be my dad.'"
Jenny and Deedie recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and say things are going great. "The dust has settled in our lives, and we are largely familiar to each other once again," Jenny says. "Most of the time we don't think about the fact that there's anything unusual about us."
There was a period where Deedie grieved for the loss of her husband, she says, but that was short-lived. "I don't have that anymore," she says. "What I do have is a terrific family. What I do have is a great partner, and our relationship is based on shared values, shared beliefs [and] shared responsibilities for the family."
Another guest no one will forget was Mary Winkler, the mother of three who was convicted of murdering her husband in 2006. She served five months in jail and two in a mental health facility. In her interview with Oprah, Winkler said her husband had sexually, physically and emotionally abused her.
Oprah Show viewers had a lot to say about Winkler—some were empathetic, others appalled. "As an abused woman, I can feel Mary's anguish," one viewer wrote. "If I had taken a weapon in my hands during my abuse, I might have ended up just like Mary."
Another viewer wrote: "That interview with Mary Winkler made me sick to my stomach. ...She made a choice that day and she needs to live with the fallout from that choice."
A year after her interview, Winkler was awarded custody of her daughters. They live in Tennessee, where Mary works in a dry cleaners.
One of Oprah Show viewers' favorite guests was Jeff, who Oprah called "the most determined man in Mississippi." Jeff once weighed over 800 pounds. When he signed on for Oprah and Bob Greene's Best Life Challenge, he was already down to about 650. He told Bob and Oprah he was committed to losing even more. "I do pool work every day. I walk in the water and do aerobics in the water," he said. "I do a workout with free weights."
Less than a year later, Jeff says he's lost about 100 more pounds. Now he doesn't only take water aerobics...he teaches it! "I've got a power class that's strictly geared to people who are a hundred pounds overweight, and I have 14 to 16 people each class," he says. He also rides the stationary bike for 40 minutes three times a week and lifts weights.
Jeff says he hasn't weighed under 500 pounds since 1989, but he's sure he'll make it there this year. His ultimate goal, he says, is to be around 270 pounds. "That will mean me losing about 500 pounds," he says. "I don't know [when it will happen], but I wish it was yesterday!"
Jeff says he's given up fried food as part of his healthier regimen. "I try to keep it lean and green—lean meat and green vegetables," he says.
So far, one of the greatest benefits of his weight loss has been doing things he couldn't before. "Putting my own socks on, tying my own shoes," he says. "It used to be that I'd have to wear non-laceup shoes. Now I can lace my own shoes up."
Oprah says one of her favorite guests this season was Monica Jorge, a healthy mom who'd just given birth to her second child when her body was ravaged by a flesh-eating bacteria. Doctors had to amputate Monica's arms and legs to save her, but she told Oprah her focus was on her kids. "When they told me they were doing it, I said: 'Okay, do it. Just get it done so I can do what I need to do so I can go home,'" she said.
After the show, viewers across the country sent in e-mails explaining how Monica had inspired them. "Thank you for reminding me to have gratitude for what I have instead of sorrow for what I don't," one viewer wrote. "Today I'm going to face my messy house and tons of errands with a smile on my face."
Monica is currently recovering from her 38th surgery. Her husband says it went well and that it will greatly improve her quality of life.