Oprah Winfrey laughs with Harvard University President Drew Faust prior to receiving an honorary degree from Harvard during commencement ceremonies in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Oprah Winfrey told graduating students at Harvard University on Thursday to expect failure at some point in their lives, but she said how they deal with hard times will ultimately define their success.
During her address at the university's 362nd commencement, said even people who have reached the top often stumble -- referencing the difficulties she initially had in launching her own TV network.
But Winfrey told the graduates that the best way to get out of the hole is by discovering their purpose in life.
Her purpose, she said, was demonstrating that what unites people is more compelling than what divides them.
Speaking at the school where Facebook was invented, Winfrey urged the graduates not to just stay online but to reach out and talk to people, even those with whom they disagree.
Winfrey and Harvard President Drew Faust both addressed attendees during afternoon exercises, which served as the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.
Faust called Winfrey's rise to global prominence one of the great American success stories.
Winfrey's private foundation has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations that promote education and support women, and children and families worldwide.
Forbes listed Winfrey as the 11th most powerful woman in the world last year. She has a net worth of $2.7 billion.