Oprah Winfrey walked on stage for her talk show finale Wednesday to a standing ovation from her studio audience before thanking her viewers for watching for a quarter of a century.
She ended her iconic, influential, hugely popular show on a simple, quiet note--a marked contrast to the spectacle of the two-day, celebrity-studded bash at the United Center that preceded the finale.
"There will be no guests, no surprises," she told her audience. "You will not be getting a car, or a tree. This last hour is about me saying thank you. It is my love letter to you." And she did--in a remarkable hour-long monologue that was part sermon, part remembrance, and part inspirational lecture.
Winfrey said she was eternally grateful to her audience.
"Twenty-five years and I'm still saying 'Thank you America,'" she said. "Thank you so much. There are no words to match this moment."
Winfrey told them that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers taught her. She called the episode her "last class," and talked about the lessons she had learned over the course of the show. She urged her viewers to "be the safe harbor for somebody else, to do for them what you have said the show has done for you." And she called the show "the great love of my life," and said, "I am truly amazed that I, who started out in rural Mississippi in 1954 when the vision for a black girl was limited to being either a maid or a teacher in a segregated school, could end up here."
As the show drew to an end, Winfrey said that its close was "all sweet and no bitter" and addressed her audience for the final time:
"I thank you for tuning in with your mothers and sisters and daughters, your partners--gay and otherwise--your friends, and all the husbands who got coaxed into watching Oprah. And I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration to me as I've tried to be for you. I won't say goodbye, I'll just say, until we meet again. To God be the glory."
She hugged and kissed her longtime partner Stedman Graham and shook hands with audience members before walking through the halls of Harpo Studios in Chicago, hugging and crying with her staff. She shouted, "We did it!"
The last shot of the finale showed Winfrey walking away with her cocker spaniel, Sadie.
The show's first moment was a clip of Winfrey's first show. She taped the last episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Tuesday in Chicago.
Winfrey was the only person on stage with little background music and very short flashback clips.
She announced in November 2009 that she would end her popular talk show after 25 years.
Tuesday's taping came a week after Hollywood's A-list and 13,000 fans bid Winfrey farewell during a double-episode extravaganza at Chicago's United Center. The shows that aired Monday and Tuesday included Aretha Franklin, Tom Cruise, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jordan and Madonna, among other stars of television, music and movies. They were just a few of the approximately 30,000 guests on the show over 25 years.
The bare-bones final taping had its share of celebrities in the audience including Tyler Perry, Maria Shriver, Suze Orman and Cicely Tyson, but none of them joined Winfrey on stage.
There were 404 audience members, according to Harpo Productions. The show received 1.4 million ticket requests throughout its final season, the company said.
Oprah will now transition full-time to the Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel she created in January.
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