Rihanna accepts Harvard's 2017 Humanitarian of the Year honor
Singer Rihanna applauds during 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award ceremonies before being presented with the award at the school, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Dr. S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation presented the singer with the honor.
"Rihanna has charitably built a state-of-the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados," Counter said. "It is for these philanthropic initiatives, and other acts of compassionate sharing, that the students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation chose to honor Rihanna with the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award."
The center was built with funds donated by Rihanna in honor of her grandmother, Clara "Dolly" Braithwaite, who died of cancer in 2012.
Rihanna also created the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program, which is named for her grandmother and grandfather, Lionel Braithwaite. According to a news release from Harvard, the program supports "students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries."
The foundation website says it works to "support and fund innovative and effective education and health programs around the world."
"So I made it to Harvard!" Rihanna said as she began her acceptance speech.
"I'm incredibly humbled to be acknowledged at this magnitude for something, in truth, I never wanted credit for," Rihanna said. "I remember watching TV (as a child) and I would see commercials with children suffering in other parts of the world, the ones where you could give 25 cents and save a child's life. I said, 'When I grow up and get rich I'm gonna help kids all over the world.' I just didn't know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager."
"We're all human, and we all just want a chance. A chance at life, a chance at an education, a chance at a future, really," she said. "And at CLF, our mission is to impact as many lives as possible, but it starts with just one. Just one. As I stare out into his beautiful room, I see optimism, I see hope, I see the future. I know that each and every one of you has the opportunity to help someone else. All you need to do is help one person and expect nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian."
Watch a video of Rihanna's acceptance speech in the video below at the 1:15:34 mark.