Oprah Winfrey: Viewers, show are 'love of my life'

May 25, 2011 (CHICAGO)

After 25 years, Winfrey delivered fans a lesson of love, grace and validation. "From you whose names I will never know, I learned what love is. You and this show have been the great love of my life," Winfrey said.

There were no surprises, no giveaways -- just an hour of gratitude and thanks for the millions who watched her every day. She filled Harpo Studios on the city's West Side with first-time guests and longtime friends for the taping of the final show.

After more than 4,500 shows and 30,000 guests, Winfrey used her last The Oprah Winfrey Show to thank those who have been with her from the beginning and share words of wisdom.

"From day one, Chicago, you took me in, into your living rooms, your kitchens, your dens, and you spread the word," Winfrey said. "This show there will be no guests, there will be no makeovers, no surprises. You will not be getting a car, or a tree. This last hour is really about me saying, 'Thank you.' It is my love letter to you," Winfrey said.

With her final show, which she called her "last class from this stage," Winfrey wanted to inspire her fans to go out and help others. She said, "Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show."

She also spoke about the 30,000 people she's interviewed as guests, many of whom shared their secrets on the show.

"The show has taught me that there is a common thread that runs through all of our pain, and all of our suffering. And that is unworthiness, not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for," Winfrey said.

"You all have been a safe harbor for me for 25 years," Winfrey said. ""It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl . . . who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could, it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel a genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you all over the world."

Signing off for the final time, Winfrey said, "I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, until we meet again. To God be the glory."

She then kissed longtime partner Stedman Graham, thanked her audience and left. On her way out, she picked up her dog, Sadie, and left with Sadie in one hand and her high heels in the other.

Winfrey said she will be in touch with fans via email.

Winfrey leaves legacy of giving

From the beginning, Oprah focused on giving.

It started with a marching band on State Street in downtown Chicago and millions watched as Oprah marched on from there.

Oprah's Angel Network kicked into high gear, raising $80 million for projects around the world including million-dollar grants for charter schools.

"The money is just symbolic of what can be done. We want you to see what they have done and look inside yourself and see what you have to give back," Oprah told ABC7.

While car giveaways and "Oprah's Favorite Things" made for memorable TV moments, one of Oprah major projects is her school in South Africa which is designed to teach girls how to be leaders.

"I already know that whatever is going to happen to these girls is going to amaze us," Oprah said.

Oprah took her viewers to disasters, too. It was hard for her to describe what she saw firsthand in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The search and rescue went in and hacked through the roof and found a little boy, four years old, still holding onto the arm of his dead mother who had drown, and so they pulled him up out of the roof," Oprah said choking up.

With The Oprah Winfrey Show signing off, Oprah says her good friend, Dr. Maya Angelou, put it all in perspective.

"She said, 'your legacy is every woman, every man, every child who watched the show and made a decision, had a thought about changing something in their life,'" Oprah said.

Oprah sat down with former and sitting presidents. According to one study, her eventual endorsement of then-Senator Barack Obama may have been worth one million votes in the Democratic primary.

Oprah audience gathers around 25 year finale

Fans gathered all over the country to watch the last "Oprah" show, including fans at a West Loop restaurant.

At Wishbone Restaurant, 1001 W. Washington, just a stone's throw away from Harpo, some dedicated fans watched the last Oprah show.

"So today, there will be no guests, there will be no makeovers, no surprises. Really, no surprises," Winfrey said.

"Well, praise Chicago. Oprah put Chicago on the map pretty much. And she has inspired a lot of people to change for the better," said fan Denise Delacuesta.

One fan came all the way here from New York City to watch the final Oprah show.

"I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to choose where you are when something as eventful as this happens. Chicago is where she's from. I think Chicago is where I should see the last show. I want to be here to get the energy, the spirit of what the show means, not just to me, but I think to the world," said Antoinette Phillips.

James Daupin lives in Chicago and went to Wishbone to watch the final "Oprah Winfrey Show." He said he's been watching Oprah for 25 years.

"It's amazing that, you know, she's just like family to everybody," he said. "We've all grown up with her. You know, we all went through so many trials and tribulations ourselves. We've learned lessons from her. I think have gotten my life put into better shape. We've been able to extend our own hands to other people."

"It's no coincidence that I grew up to feel genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you all over the world. We did it! We did it!" Winfrey said, holding up her dog Sadie at the end of the show.

Fans of our Morning Show and 11 a.m. News Facebook pages have been weighing in on the Oprah finale. One writes, "It was quite moving, the end of an era." Another post said, "I like it, very touching." And another fan wrote, "I think it is a great speech."

Winfrey walked on stage for her talk show finale to a standing ovation from her studio audience. Winfrey encouraged them to be "more of yourself." In the show aired Wednesday, she told them that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers taught her.

It was a simply produced series finale filled with a sense of gratitude -- an entirely different feel to the star-studded double-episode farewell shows that aired Monday and Tuesday. Winfrey announced in November 2009 that she would end her popular talk show. She has since launched her own cable network, based in Los Angeles.

At a private brunch last week following her show taping at the United Center, Oprah gave a hint of what her final show would be like, saying the last show would be intimate.

On Tuesday outside Harpo Studios, people in the audience for the final show lined up after they found out a few days earlier by e-mail they were getting tickets. Many traveled from around the country to attend and say it was a moving experience.

"It was amazing. I have been watching her for as long as I can remember. It was really sad, so, but it was really awesome," said one fan.

"A lovely coral dress with a sash, and no guests, no surprises. It was really sweet," another fan said.

Last week, Oprah sat down with ABC7's Cheryl Burton to reflect on the past 25 years. The queen of talk says she has no regrets.

"I have to honestly say that I think I've done it as well as it could be done," Winfrey said.

She has come far since her show started locally in Chicago in 1984. Winfrey was born in the rural South, climbed up the ranks of local television news and now she is an icon worldwide.

The countdown is on to a new live, local show premiering on ABC7 Thursday. Join hosts Ryan Chiaverini and Val Warner for "Windy City LIVE." Their first show is Thursday at 9 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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