Investor Robert Smith recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and announced that he would pay off the student debt of the entire graduating class. Some are criticizing the mega-wealthy Oprah Winfrey for not doing the same.

Robert Smith should be lauded as a hero. What a truly awe-inspiring thing to do, to pay off the student debt of 396 graduating students. The opportunities this presents to those students who are about to launch their lives are immense. Imagine having tens of thousands of dollars in debt just wiped clean.

Over the weekend, Oprah Winfrey delivered the commencement address at Colorado College. Oprah personally greeted all 571 graduating students and gave each a copy of her new book—but that wasn't good enough for some.

An Instagram user posted that Oprah should have paid off the graduate's student debt instead of giving them books. What the poster didn't know is that Oprah has given more than her fair share, not only to college-bound students but to Morehouse College in particular.

Fox News reports that Winfrey has donated more than $13 million in scholarships to Morehouse. "Her contribution created a fund that has grown to $12 million and has awarded scholarships to more than 400 men. Winfrey is one of Morehouse College’s top donors in the institution’s history," the report said.

What Robert Smith did was extraordinary and should be recognized as such. But to expect Oprah should do the same simply because she has the means is wrong and misguided. Students understand that when they sign on the dotted line to borrow money for school they are obligated to repay the loan.

The idea of student loan forgiveness has become a popular political enticement as the 2020 campaign begins to heat up. No one should expect someone else, whether it be a celebrity or the taxpayers, to pay their way. What made Robert Smith's gift so special is that it was unexpected and therefore more greatly appreciated.

The more we expect others to do for us, the less we appreciate our own ability to do for ourselves. Don't expect so much and you'll appreciate more what you do receive.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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