Oprah Winfrey

Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

It's no secret—Oprah does not like being surprised. But, in the final days of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she makes an exception for her producers.

After months of secret meetings and careful planning, Oprah's dedicated team is ready to stage the greatest, grandest surprise ever. All Oprah knows is where to go—Chicago's United Center—and what time to show up.

As Oprah steps onto the stage and makes her 4,559th appearance on her show, she's greeted by an audience filled with her friends, family and more than 10,000 loyal viewers. Her first of many surprises is waiting in the wings.

Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey

Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

As the applause swells, Oscar® winner and frequent Oprah Show guest Tom Hanks joins Oprah center stage.

"Oprah Winfrey, today you are surrounded by nothing but love," he says. "Now, we know that you do not like surprises, but let me see if I can put you at ease. There was an English playwright who once said, 'There's no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved.' That's what this night is all about."

Of course, pulling off this farewell tribute—and keeping it a tightly guarded secret from Oprah herself—is no easy feat. Tom says, "Some might say pulling off this party is, in fact, darn near a mission impossible..."

Tom Cruise

Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

As the theme music to his 1996 blockbuster Mission: Impossible blasts from the speakers, Tom Cruise walks out and greets Oprah with a hug. Since his first Oprah Show appearance in 1988—"You looked like you were 10!" Oprah tells him—Tom has been on the show 12 times.

"Each time, I knew coming to Chicago that I was going to see a loving friend—and a friend who just happened to have a classroom of millions," Tom says. "For a quarter of a century, Oprah, you have quoted Glinda the Good Witch [from The Wizard of Oz]: 'You always had the power.' And that is the message you have brought into our lives."

Jackie Evancho

On the heels of Tom's reference to The Wizard of Oz, pint-size opera singer and America's Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho walks on stage wearing ruby red slippers and singing the opening lines to "Over the Rainbow."
Josh Groban and Patti LaBelle

Photos: George Burns/Harpo Studios

As Jackie finishes the opening verse to "Over the Rainbow," singer/songwriter Josh Groban and living legend Patti LaBelle take over where she left off. As their powerful voices fill the arena, Patti kicks off her heels—literally—and belts out the final notes. Their rousing duet gets everyone to their feet! 

Watch Jackie, Josh and Patti sing "Over the Rainbow"   


Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

Thousands of Oprah Show Ultimate Viewers packed the seats at the United Center and one hardworking mother of four flew in from New York City just to take part in the celebration: Madonna.

"It's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah. I am one of those people," Madonna says. "She's a self-made woman who has been at the top of her game for 25 years—and she is still kicking ass! ... She has balls and a wealth of compassion. I have learned so much from her."

Like Oprah, Madonna also has a passion for educating girls in Africa, girls for whom a college education is usually unthinkable. "Oprah's commitment toward building her girls' academy in South Africa ... and having it be such a success against all odds has helped me to understand that it is possible and, in spite of the challenges I've encountered trying to build a girls school in Malawi, that I should stay the course and keep going—no matter how much resistance I encounter," Madonna says.

Dakota Fanning with "Oprah babies"


In addition to helping girls halfway around the world, Oprah has also had an impact on the lives of girls in the United States—including lifelong Oprah Show viewer and actress Dakota Fanning.

Dakota takes the stage surrounded by 60 young Ultimate Viewers. "We call ourselves Oprah Show babies," she tells Oprah. "Your voice has been the soundtrack to our lives—every milestone, every first, you were there."

Watch several young Ultimate Viewers tell Oprah what she's taught them   

"We've learned from The Oprah Show that we are enough, that we matter, that our lives have value," Dakota says. "Oprah, thank you. Because of The Oprah Winfrey Show, we believe girls can run the world."



As the girls walk off stage, Oprah's next surprise is revealed: Grammy-winning superstar Beyoncé! "Oprah Winfrey, because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, of who we are and, most importantly, of who we can be," she says.

As the wall behind her parts, Beyoncé's new song, "Run the World (Girls)," begins playing as dancers clad in graduation caps and graduation gowns strut into position.

Watch Beyoncé and her dancers give a performance that has Oprah and thousands of fans dancing in the aisles   

Audience holding books

 Photo: Harpo Studios

Celebrities aren't the only ones who have surprises in store for Oprah. The United Center audience brought along some of their "favorite things" to present to the guest of honor. Every person in attendance bought at least one children's book, which will be used to stock empty library shelves at KIPP Believe College Prep in New Orleans. This school lost all its books during Hurricane Katrina, and when a tornado came through two years later and ripped out an entire wall, the repairs used up the school's library funds, leaving no money for books.

Of course, literacy is an issue close to Oprah's heart. Back in 1986, Tom Hanks says, no one would have guessed that a daytime talk show could inspire people to read, but The Oprah Show did just that. It's been estimated that Oprah's Book Club has helped sell 30 million books.

John Legend at the Believe School in New Orleans


Grammy-winning artist John Legend joins the party from New Orleans, where he's on location at KIPP Believe College Prep with students and their families. "Oprah, this school library desperately needed a little Oprah Show makeover love. So over the past several weeks it has been rebuilt in your honor," John says.

To complete the makeover, more than 100 Target team members worked around the clock, filling the shelves with 2,000 brand new books and installing dozens of new computers, an interactive whiteboard and a state-of-the-art system to keep track of all the titles. Inspirational artwork was added to the walls, and now, there's even a "chill zone" where students can kick back and read.

But that's not all! In honor of Oprah's historic 25 seasons, Target and The Heart of America Foundation are planning to rebuild 25 additional school libraries across the country.

Diane Sawyer

Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

No library is complete without an inspiring place to read, and ABC's World News anchor Diane Sawyer walks on stage to share another surprise announcement.

Over the years, Oprah has often said that her favorite place to read is under the stately oak trees that surround her Santa Barbara home. "I've always thought that maybe the closest Oprah is to heaven is when she's sitting in one of her big oak trees," Diane says. "I think I know why you love those trees so much: They start with just a small seed, and then the first shoots and those saplings start to spring up. Then, the tree starts to grow and there it is with the deepest roots and still looking straight up at the sky. The stronger the wind, the stronger that tree standing there on the horizon. And that is like life, and that is like you and that is like The Oprah Winfrey Show."

To further honor of The Oprah Show's 25 seasons, Diane tells Oprah that in front of each of the new libraries, a giant tree will be planted. "The Oprah tree," Diane says. "Standing and inviting every one of those children to bring their books and their hopes and their fears and to know that you are there to embrace them."

Audience LED Tree


Twenty-five trees sounds great...but 25,000 sounds even better! As an LED tree lights up on stage, Diane reveals that across the country, another 25,000 oaks will be planted in Oprah's name. "Thank you for 25 years," Diane says.
Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Halle Berry, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes are all here to celebrate how Oprah has inspired her viewers to change the world. "The true beauty of your show is that your viewers haven't just been sitting in front of their televisions being entertained or merely informed," Halle says. "They have risen up to literally change the world."

Halle tells Oprah about Debbie, a viewer who was inspired by The Oprah Show to become a foster mother to 29 newborn babies.

Katie shares the story of Lanny, a viewer who was so moved by Oprah's ChristmasKindness in South Africa, he started a charity that has helped more than 100,000 Kenyans build homes, clinics and water wells.

Queen Latifah introduces Mollie, a viewer who helped 56-year-old Samija from Bosnia start her own vegetable farm. Now, Samija is able to feed her family and most of her village.

"There are countless Debbies, Lannys and Mollies walking around this world because of The Oprah Show," Katie says.

Over the years, Oprah Show viewers have donated more than $12 million to the charity Women for Women International and helped 37,161 women in countries like the Congo, Rwanda, the Sudan, Nigeria, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.

Rascal Flatts

Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios 

In a fitting tribute, chart-topping country music group Rascal Flatts closes the first part of Oprah's farewell spectacular with their hit "I Won't Let Go."

Watch Rascal Flatts' moving performance   


Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios

After an hour filled with farewells and surprises, Oprah tells her friends, the audience and viewers at home that she feels the love. "You have made it possible for us to stand for 25 years," she says. "Your presence in front of your television set and your presence here tonight honors me in the deepest way possible." 

More from the unforgettable conclusion of Oprah's farewell spectacular!

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