*For the philanthropy she has showered upon her native island of Barbados and the charities she has founded over the years, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations honored Rihanna with the 2017 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year award.
In a ceremony held Tuesday, the singer thanked the university and delivered an inspiring speech, starting with the acknowledgement of a life long dream.
“So I made it to Harvard,” Riri began as she jokingly flipped her hair. “Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.”
She went on to explain that her passion for helping people dates back to her early childhood, while watching commercials about how a quarter could help save a child’s life.
“I would think to myself, ‘I wonder how many 25 cents I could save up to save all the kids in Africa.’ And I would say to myself, ‘When I grow up and I get rich, I’m gonna save kids all over the world.’ I just didn’t know I would be in a position to do that by the time I was a teenager,” Rihanna laughed.
After touching on all of the organizations she has since started and helped with, Rihanna encouraged the students at the ceremony and everyone listening to give back in any way possible.
“All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian,” she said, adding, “What that little girl watching those commercials didn’t know is that you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian, you don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t have to be famous, you don’t even have to be college-educated. But it starts with your neighbor. … You just do whatever you can to help in any way that you can.”
Watch Rihanna receive her humanitarian award and see her full speech below: