Rihanna at Harvard: ‘When I get rich, I’mma save kids all over the world’

The Grammy award-winning singer received Harvard University’s Humanitarian of the Year award and got a standing ovation for her philanthropic speech

Pop star Rihanna has receives the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University. Video: Harvard Foundation

 

Rihanna swished her hair, struck a pose and said the words “so I made it to Harvard” drawing a massive cheer from the crowd gathered to see the singer honoured by the university as their Humanitarian of the Year.

The Grammy Award-winning pop star has been involved in several charities including building a centre for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer in Barbados, where she is from.

In her acceptance speech on Tuesday she spoke about how her philanthropic attitude was fostered in childhood watching TV ads about people suffering around the world .

“And I would say to myself you know, ‘when I grow up, when I can get rich, I’mma save kids all over the world.’ I just didn’t know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager.”

“All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.

Others previously honoured for the award include late physician-statistician Hans Rosling, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai.

Singer Rihanna during her speech after she was presented with the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP
Singer Rihanna during her speech after she was presented with the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP

Here’s the full text of her acceptance speech:

So I made it to Harvard... Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.

Thank you, Dr Counter, thank you to the Harvard Foundation, and thank you, Harvard University for this great honour. Thank you. I’m incredibly humbled by this, to be acknowledged at this magnitude for something that in truth I’ve never wanted credit for.

When I was five or six years old, I remember watching TV and I would see these commercials and I was watching other children suffer in other parts of the world and you know the commercials were [like], ‘you can give 25 cents, save a child’s life,’ you know? And I would think to myself like, I wonder how many 25 cents I could save up to save all the kids in Africa. And I would say to myself you know, ‘when I grow up, when I can get rich, I’mma save kids all over the world.’ I just didn’t know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager.

At 17 I started my career here in America, and by the age of 18, I started my first charity organization. I went on to team up with other organizations in the following years and met, helped, and even lost some of the most beautiful souls, from six-year-old Jasmina Anema who passed away in 2010 from leukaemia, her story inspired thousands to volunteer as donors through DKMS.

Fast forward to 2012 and then my grandmother, the late Clara Brathwaite, she lost her battle with cancer, which is the very reason and the driving force behind the Clara Lionel Foundation.

We’re all human. And we all just want a chance: a chance at life, a chance in education, a chance at a future, really. And at CLF, our mission is to impact as many lives as possible, but it starts with just one. Just one.

As I stare out into this beautiful room, I see optimism, I see hope, I see the future. I know that each and every one of you has the opportunity to help someone else. All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.

You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t gotta be famous

People make it seem way too hard, man. The truth is, and what I want the little girl watching those commercials to know, is you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian. You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t gotta be famous. You don’t even have to be college-educated. I mean, I wish I was, I’m not saying you know… Especially today. It’s true, I might come back but all right.

But it starts with your neighbour, the person right next to you, the person sitting next to you in class, the kid down the block in your neighbourhood, you just do whatever you can to help in any way that you can.

And today I want to challenge each of you to make a commitment to help one person: one organization, one situation that touches your heart. My grandmother always used to say if you’ve got a dollar, there’s plenty to share. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. It was my honour.

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