*Oprah made a surprise visit to the inaugural class of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta on Wednesday for their eighth grade graduation.
Winfrey, who has donated nearly $2 million to the private school since it opened three years ago [see clip below], was one of several celebs on hand to personally congratulate the Class of 2010.
“I am here just to say to you, I believe in you,” Winfrey told the 20 students, after a standing ovation. “Each of you represent the best of who we are … You know what it means to work hard and to sometimes not feel sure of yourself and to push beyond that understanding and move forward to what is certain. You were born to greatness and to do great things.”
Sporting a bright-yellow blouse and flowing long skirt, Winfrey also gave parents props for taking a chance on a new school under the leadership of an educator known for jumping on top of desks to give his lectures, a teacher named the best in America.
“To every parent in here, every family in here, who was smart enough, wise enough and understood enough how important education is that you would put your child in the best school in the United States of America, congratulations,” Winfrey said.
Gospel star Yolanda Adams and two members of Boys II Men performed during the graduation ceremony.
During her appearance at the graduation, Winfrey expressed sympathy for those in the Gulf region affected by the BP oil disaster.
“What’s going on in my heart is the same thing, everyone feels for what is happening to all of the fisherman and families who, this time of year, would be hosting people from all over the country and all over the world there,” said Winfrey.
“We can only hope and pray that this will soon be resolved in a way that people can pick themselves up and move forward,” Winfrey added. The talk show host said she has heard the criticism of Obama’s handling of the oil crisis. Winfrey, an avid supporter of the president, said he is doing a good job.
“I think the president is doing the best anybody can,” said Winfrey, who campaigned for Obama when he ran for president. “I really don’t understand what people want him to do? I think he’s the president of the United States.
“You’re not supposed to be emotional, you’re supposed to take action and get things done and make sure those things happen so I’m not sure what people want him to do,” she said.
Below: Oprah gives the Ron Clark Academy $365,000. Clark, an educator and subject of the TNT film “The Ron Clark Story” starring Matthew Perry, opened the private incubator school in 2007, all through private funding.