As Elle Woods once said, “What, like it’s hard?”
The year 2017 turned itself right around when Harvard University selected Rihanna as their Humanitarian of the Year earlier this month. On Tuesday, the “Anti” singer graciously accepted the honor with a touching and hilarious speech in peak Rihanna fashion.
After a handful of guest speakers spoke to Rihanna’s cultural and philanthropic impact, the singer took the stage and addressed her public.
“So, I made it to Harvard,” she said, opening the speech with a grin and hair flip. Rihanna then went on to explain how watching commercials as a child that encouraged viewers to donate 25 cents to save a life informed her attitudes toward charity.
“I would say to myself, ‘When I grow up, and I can get rich, I’m gonna save kids all over the world,’” Rihanna recalled. “I just didn’t know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager.”
The Harvard Foundation, which annually honors prominent public-spirited leaders, named Rihanna as the recipient of the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award for her charitable work promoting healthcare and education in the Caribbean. In addition to funding a state-of-the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine in her home country of Barbados, the singer has set up the Clara Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program to help Caribbean students attending universities in the U.S. succeed.
“All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return,” Rihanna continued. “To me, that is a humanitarian. People make it seem way too hard, man. The truth is — and what the little girl watching those commercials didn’t know — 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.”
She then went on to hint that she might return to the university one day as a student, so we’ll just be over here quietly raising funds for a “Legally Blonde” (”Legally Rihanna”?) sequel.
Watch the entire ceremony below and catch Rihanna’s speech at 1:14:00.