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Online Extra: A Talk with Oprah Winfrey

The media mogul explains a key focus of her charity work: Education is freedom. It provides the tools to affect one's own destiny

Oprah Winfrey is the first African-American philanthropist to make the BusinessWeek Top 50 list. BW's Michelle Conlin recently asked Oprah to tell us a bit about her commitment to charity. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: Did you have a role model as a philanthropist growing up -- someone who gave in perhaps even the tiniest of ways but who was instrumental in demonstrating the virtue of charity?

A:

So many things in life inspire philanthropy, such as your faith in humanity and your belief in the human spirit to overcome. As far as a role model, I'd say there were moments with generous people that stand out for me. I will never forget when I was about 12, and my mother told my siblings and me that we would not be receiving Christmas gifts because there wasn't enough money.