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Lady Gaga lends star wattage to youth empowerment

By Ros Krasny

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Pop diva Lady Gaga brought her star power, her mom and some of her famous friends, including Oprah Winfrey, to Harvard University on Wednesday to launch a new foundation aimed at empowering young people and stamping out bullying.

"If you have revolutionary potential, you must make the world a better place and use it," Gaga said as she officially kicked off the "Born this Way Foundation," named after her 2011 hit album and single, with a series of events at the top U.S. university. "This is about transformative change in culture."

The singer has often given a voice for people she feels lack representation in the media, and she formed the foundation to address issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying and mentoring.

Cynthia Germanotta, Gaga's mother, will serve as president. Lady Gaga's given name is Stefani Germanotta.

"I believe that human kind, as a whole, can change the world," said style-icon Gaga, who wore a long black, backless dress, black hat, gloves and platform shoes to Harvard for what she termed "one of the best days of my life."

"The goal is to challenge meanness and cruelty by inspiring young people to create a support system in their respective communities," she said.

POWERFUL VOICE FOR YOUTH

In 2011 Gaga, 25, topped the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the entertainment business - ironically, knocking talk show host Winfrey from the No. 1 spot she had held three times in the past seven years.

Winfrey said she joined forces with Gaga's foundation because it shared some of her core beliefs, including kindness, compassion and care for others.

Earlier, before speaking to a panel of experts, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and author Deepak Chopra, as well as Harvard students and others, Gaga dropped in on a youth summit where high schoolers talked about their experiences with bullying and efforts to prevent it.

The three pillars of her foundation are to promote "safety, skills and opportunities" for young people, said Gaga.

"Once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving, accepting, tolerant person, the opportunities are endless to be a functioning human in society."

Gaga's foundation is expected to include specific outreach to lesbian and gay youth. "Born This Way" has quickly become an unofficial anthem for gay empowerment and pride.

The singer/songwriter said that releasing the song further propelled a dialog that already existed between her and her fans - Gaga has almost 20 million followers on the social media site Twitter - and became a calling of sorts.

"After I put the song out, the conversation ignited even further ... I never wanted this conversation to end. I thought how I could keep it going," said Gaga. "And if anyone knows how to get a message out there, it's me."

Parked outside the auditorium was the new "Born Brave Bus" intended to be a kind of drop-in center or roving tailgate party for Gaga's fans.

"The more kids that I can get to come and eat hamburgers and talk outside my shows ... I feel that it will start small, but over time will be very big," Gaga said.

Gaga said she knew there was "no one answer" or single law that could be passed to stop bullying and hate, or mandate acceptance. "I wish there was because, you know, I would be chained naked to a fence somewhere to try to get one passed."

(Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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