Oprah to college grads: the secret to happiness is a private jet

The graduating class of Duke University this year had the privilege of Oprah giving their commencement speech. Her advice to the class of 2009: seriously, being rich is really cool because you can own a ton of mansions and fly around on a private jet.


Well at least she's honest. But is this really practical advice for a class that that is facing one of the worst job markets ever?

A great commencement speech holds advice for the future, for when those hopeful grads walk out of the campus, diplomas in hand, into the real world. Oprah's advice? "It's great to have a nice home. It's great to have nice homes! It's great to have a nice home that just escaped the fire in Santa Barbara," she told the students. "It's great to have a private jet. Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn't great is lying to you."

Oprah's main point in the speech was to serve others in life. Still, promoting the idea of owning a private jet was perhaps not the best word choice for our fragile grads who are entering into a workforce, fighting with laid-off industry veterans for entry-level positions.

The private jet industry has recently become a symbol of what is wrong with corporate America, as banks and auto leaders fly solo to Washington while sucking up our government bailout money. The WSJ has a simple solution for them: a new advertising campaign with Oprah, in front of her $42 million custom-built Bombardier Aerospace Global Express XRS ride saying, "It's great to have a private jet."

Sure, you can praise Oprah for not being a hypocrite. She's rich and she's proud of it. It's kind of tacky to flaunt your riches in a recession, but whatever.

But here's why she is hypocritical. Oprah flaunts her philanthropy. She's one of the biggest givers in the country, donating millions each year to her various causes, so she has a right to do so. But how can a woman who opens up a school for girls in Africa, tries her luck at a vegan diet, and even launched a (failed) philanthropical reality TV show, flaunt the benefits of owning a private jet?

Flying private is one of the single most damaging things a person can do to the environment. A passenger flying in a private Gulfstream G400 puts out 1 ton of carbon emissions, while a passenger in first class on a Boeing 777 puts out only .06.

Stars like Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, and Al Gore have all been blasted for preaching the dangers of global warming, while meanwhile expanding their own carbon footprints by jetting around the world in style.

High fuel prices have caused celebs like Diddy and Michael Jackson to fly commercial. And if Diddy and MJ can put up with the hassle of late flights and long lines, I'm sure Oprah can too. And there are even other options like jet ride sharing. It's like carpooling for celebs. Or Warren Buffet, who has made carbon offsetting mandatory for his private jet clientele.

But if you're going to keep your jet, Oprah, at least think twice before encouraging an entire class of graduates to aspire to owning one too. And hopefully they'll get some career advice from their parents.

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