Photo Credit: Todd Williamson/WireImage
The 2012 Academy Awards have come and gone for Oprah Winfrey, who received her honorary Oscar at Saturday night's Governors Awards ceremony. Winfrey, 57, broke down crying while accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The television icon, a 1986 Oscar nominee for The Color Purple, gave a heartfelt off-the-cuff speech to express her gratitude to the Academy.
"I didn't prepare a speech because I just wanted to feel whatever this is... it's very difficult for me to open myself to receive what people have to offer," explained Winfrey. "And so tonight, I came to be open."
"I never imagined myself receiving an Oscar, certainly not for doing what I believe is a part of my calling, a part of my being," continued Oprah, who was being honored for her many humanitarian efforts.
Winfrey burst into tears as she spoke of her gratitude that a black girl from rural Kosciusko, Mississippi -- "where nobody even imagined it possible that you could be anything other than a maid who had some good white folks who would give you clothes and let you take food home on the holidays" -- could be standing in her place.
"It is unimaginable," Winfrey said repeatedly, as her longtime partner Stedman Graham led the audience in a standing ovation.
The prestigious award, whose past recipients include Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, was presented to Winfrey by a Harlem student who earned a scholarship through the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. Additional speeches were given by Oprah's friends Maria Shriver and John Travolta, and the audience included many of her most prominent supporters, including Sidney Poitier and best friend Gayle King.
"I'd like to do more films," Oprah revealed at the end of her speech, "but to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award means more to me than any film, any acclaim, even an Oscar, because what it says is you all get it. What this really means is that you all understand that what I've been trying to do, what I've been trying to say all these years: that all of us can make a difference through the life that we live."
Video from Oprah's speech will be broadcast during February's Oscar telecast, and can be watched at the Academy Awards website. In addition to Winfrey, this year's Governors Awards honored actor James Earl Jones and Exorcist makeup artist Dick Smith.