Rihanna “shined bright like a diamond” on February 27th as she received the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University. Rihanna accepted her award “Bad Girl RiRi” style, starting her speech off by confidently flipping her hair and exclaiming: “So I made it to Harvard!”
Rihanna was honoured with this award for her philanthropic work of building a center for oncology and nuclear medicine to treat and diagnose breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in her hometown. The singer was also celebrated for her work with the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program, which serves to improve the quality of life for young people everywhere by funding effective education and health programs across the world.
All humanitarian work is admirable, but Rihanna’s story is a true inspiration. Born Robyn Fenty, she overcame a rough childhood marred by her father’s addiction problems and her parents’ turbulent marriage (which ended in divorce when Rihanna was 14). Despite the adversity Rihanna faced growing up, she maintained a burning desire to help people in need: “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?”
Continuing her speech, Rihanna told her audience: “All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian. People make it seem way too hard, man.”
Rihanna concluded the speech by challenging her audience “to make a commitment to help one person: one organisation, one situation that touches your heart.”
Work. Work. Work. Rihanna, you deserved that Humanitarian Award, and up on that stage you reminded us all how important it is to keep trying to make a difference in the world we live in. Cheers--we’ll drink to that!