Oprah: What happened the first time you gathered the Elders in one room? Were you nervous or intimidated?
Richard: Well, I'd already been spending a lot of time with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He's one of the best human beings alive.
Oprah: There's no better spirit or vibe to be around.
Richard: And he has an absolutely wicked sense of humor!
Oprah: Yes! I think the fact that he's funny would surprise people.
Richard: I'm sure he's told you the one about getting to the kingdom of heaven to find two signs at the entrance: One reads FOR HENPECKED MEN ONLY, and the second reads OTHERS. There's a massive queue of men lined up under the HENPECKED sign, and only one man beneath the OTHERS sign. God says to that one man, "You're lucky. How did you make it into this line?" "Well," the man says, "my wife told me to stand here!" And Tutu tells this joke while his wife is sitting right there next to him. Anyway, Peter and I had been working on this idea for five years before we convened the group, so we were exhilarated. Then Nelson Mandela arrived and made a very moving speech. [View this and the other Elders' speeches at theelders.org.] It was the birth of something special. And it's wonderful to have you on the sidelines.
Oprah: I'm doing my part! I can tell the world about it. You always look so radiant and joyous in your photos. Is that your natural temperament?
Richard: I have tremendous stability in my life. My wife and I have been together for 32 years, and we're very happy. I've got two wonderful children, my parents, and great friends around me. And then there are the more than 50,000 wonderful people who work for the Virgin companies. I have no excuse not to be happy.
Oprah: I love that. What was it like to start Virgin?
Richard: I was young and inexperienced. At first I wasn't even allowed to register the business name because the word virgin was thought to be rude. I had to sit down and, in my best 15-year-old penmanship, write a letter to the registry office that began, "Surely the word virgin is anything but rude; it's the opposite of rude." They eventually relented.