When the principal called to inform her that Calvin hadn’t been attending class, Oprah and her partner, Stedman Graham, paid the family a visit. The family told her that they weren’t able to wake up on time to get Calvin to school. Oprah says:
We realized they don’t have any clocks in the house. We went out, Stedman and I, went to K-Mart that moment, got a bag full of clocks, came back to the house, taught them how to set the alarm and all that.
Unfortunately, Oprah says Calvin was eventually expelled from the school.
I had a long conversation with him about how disappointed I was but I was going to give him another chance. I found a school in Mississippi that was a private boarding school because I thought if I could remove him from the environment that he’d been accustomed to growing up in, that maybe that would be helpful to him.
Oprah says that 16-year-old Calvin said that he couldn’t stay at the boarding school because “the teachers didn’t like him.”
I said, ‘Calvin, this is the moment. This is a seminal moment for you. I know you are 16 and can’t see the road ahead, but if you leave this school and refuse to get an education — I have tried to offer you an education twice — there isn’t another school I can put you in. If you leave this school, I am done. There is nothing else I can do.’ … And that was my last conversation with Calvin in the early ’90s.
Fast forward to the present day and Oprah addresses reports that Calvin ambushed her this month, while taping The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. She says that she didn’t immediately recognize Calvin when he approached her, but attempted to make contact with him after their run-in. She suspected he told his story to the tabloids, after she was asked by a media outlet for comment about her “secret son.” Oprah says:
I could see the little boy in his eyes, even though time has changed a lot for him, and I said to him, ‘What are you doing? Why did you go to the tabloids?’
As I left, and he was looking so forlorn, he was like, ‘Can I speak to you?’ So I said to somebody on my team, ‘Will somebody get Calvin’s number so I can contact him later?’ I didn’t realize the whole thing was a setup.
She continues: “When I realized the whole thing was a setup, I was no longer interested in speaking to him,” noting that she’s not hurt, but is “disappointed.”
Oprah says that Calvin actually inspired her to open her Leadership Academy for Girls in 2007.
I learned from that experience, if you really want to change somebody’s life, you gotta be able to spend enough time with them to change the way they think about what their life can be. It isn’t enough to give a person a new life or money or a new car, you have to teach them how to fish themselves.