MASSACHUSETTS, United States, Wednesday March 1, 2017 – It was all very Rihanna – from the style to the speech to the crowd’s reaction.
From the time the Barbadian superstar walked onto the stage in Harvard University’s jam-packed Sanders Theatre yesterday to accept the Harvard Foundation’s Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award, she was in control of the crowd that had waited hours to get a coveted seat.
“So I made it to Harvard,” the pop star opened up her speech, smirking and flipping her ponytail as the crowd went wild. “Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.”
Her acceptance speech was dotted with humour like this, but she was very serious as she spoke about what a humanitarian is to her, and challenged students to help at least one individual or organization.
“I know that each and every one of you can help someone else. All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return,” Rihanna said. “To me, that is a humanitarian. People make it seem way too hard, man. The truth is…that you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian, to help somebody. You don’t have to be famous. You don’t have to be college-educated.”
Recalling the commercials she saw as a child, which asked people to donate as little as 25 cents to help children in need, Rihanna said she had promised that when she got older and “got rich”, she would “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.”.
Rihanna’s first charity, The Believe Foundation, was created in 2006 when she was just 18 years old.
During her speech, Rihanna honoured those who inspired her various charitable efforts, including her late grandmother whose battle with cancer was the driving force behind the Clara Lionel Foundation, and a six-year-old girl who died of leukemia.
Passing on a piece of advice from her grandmother, Rihanna told the crowd as she closed: “If you got a dollar, there’s plenty to share.”
Rihanna charitably built an oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in her homeland, Barbados.
She has also set up a scholarship programme for Caribbean students studying in the United States, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, a multiyear campaign that will provide children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls and those affected by lack of access to education.