After all that feverish speculation about who would be Oprah's final guest, it turned out to be just Oprah, our end-all and be-all.

Just Oprah in a peach dress and matching shoes on the Chicago stage we know as well as our own living rooms.

Just Oprah delivering a poignant commencement address, a long, personal homily of encouragement and faith.

Early in the hour, she identified the thread that has run through all 4,561 of her shows: "People have the power to change their own lives."

It's impossible to distill 25 years of lessons into one speech, but Oprah Winfrey, a woman whose reach has always exceeded her grasp, took a shot at it.

The result was a new-age tent revival with Dale Carnegie wall-hangings.

"You alone are enough," she assured us.

She counseled us to enjoy the ride. "We often block our own blessings because we don't feel inherently good enough, or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough."

She exhorted us to accept and pursue our destinies: "You are exactly where you're supposed to be, doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing.

"Start embracing that life that is calling you and use that life to serve the world."

And she did it all with a degree of humility. "Sometimes I was the teacher; more often, it was I who learned from you."

She laughed at herself, flashing images of hair and clothes choices through the years that seemed like a good idea at the time.

As at any other retirement party, she couldn't help bragging a little. "I never missed a day in 25 years."

Surprisingly she only cried once, 51 minutes into the broadcast, as she evoked "the lonely little girl" who is her inner child.

She also let us in on the secrets of her success: "My staff. And Jesus."

The final show was unusually steeped in religion, both semiotically and rhetorically.

"I have felt the presence of God my whole life," she said solemnly.

The essence of this final sermon was that Oprah has merely been the messenger; now it is up to us to take the gospel of honesty, empowerment, and sacrifice out into the world.

All of that sounds hopelessly pretentious. But if anyone has earned the right to spout spiritual axioms, it is Oprah.

Unlike anyone else in our society, she has experienced success, power, respect, and riches by consistently appealing to our better selves.

The hour went by quickly, the commercial breaks coming at shorter and shorter intervals. And then it was time for those final words, drawn, intentionally or not, from another beloved frontierswoman, Dale Evans: "I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, 'Until we meet again.' To God be the glory."

So long, sister. Please don't stay a stranger.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.