Memorable graduation advice from the stars

1. Chadwick Boseman to Howard University’s Class of 2018:

“I don’t know what your future is. But if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes … then you will not regret it.

Purpose is the essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

2. Queen Latifah to Rutgers University-Newark’s Class of 2018:

“Never forget where you came from. Home is what shapes you, but you have a responsibility to your home too. Be a citizen. Get involved. Give back. Pay it forward. Take a chance on that next kid who comes along the way the way somebody took a chance on you. The way somebody took a chance on me. Share your time. Be a mentor.”

3. Michael Keaton to Kent State University’s Class of 2018:

“I’ve got two words that I want you all to remember. They’re very important. And if I leave you with anything, I’m going to leave you with these two words. And those two words are: I’m Batman.”

4. Alexander Payne to University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Class of 2018:

“My parents absolutely hammered me to be a lawyer, but I had been movie-crazy since I was a little kid, and it was all I could think about. As a senior in college, I applied to film school, my thought being that even if I sucked at it, at least I could go to my grave knowing I had tried it. [My parents] kept repeating the single worst advice in the world, which is, ‘Go to law school first so you’ll always have something to fall back on.’

In fact, the opposite is true: Do what you want to do first because you can always fall back on going to law school. These years right now … are the precious years when you’re done with school and you can get out in the world and try any damn thing you want.”

5. Helen Mirren to Tulane University’s Class of 2017:

“And Helen’s Rule No. 5 for a happy life? Don’t overcomplicate things. You can navigate each day just by following some very practical dos and don’ts. Like don’t put hot cups on waxed wooden surfaces. In fact, don’t ever wax wooden surfaces.

Don’t procrastinate. Do say thank you when it is merited. Don’t procrastinate … especially in saying thank you when it is merited. Don’t lose your sense of humor. Do confront bullies. Don’t procrastinate. Do open your heart to love. Don’t confuse sex with love. Love generally lasts longer than two minutes. Don’t smoke tobacco … or chew it. Don’t dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is. And one more thing — don’t procrastinate.”

6. Will Ferrell to the University of Southern California’s Class of 2017:

“After my first show [on ‘Saturday Night Live’], one review referred to me as ‘the most annoying newcomer of the new cast.’ Someone showed this to me, and I promptly put it on the wall of my office, reminding myself that, to some people, I will be annoying. Some people will not think I’m funny. And that’s OK.

No matter how cliche this may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you would like to do with your life, congratulations. For most of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, that’s OK. That’s the same chair I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of results. Trust your gut. Keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics, and you will figure it out.”

7. Octavia Spencer to Kent State University’s Class of 2017:

“If I had to read ’25 Actresses Who Broke Through Before 25′ when I was first starting out, I tell you guys, I would have stayed in bed. Because I guarantee you that none of them looked like me. None of them. So know this: As much as you’ve changed during your time here, more change is coming. You’re going to continue to evolve in unforeseen ways.

You are full of complexities and wonders that haven’t even begun to surface. Life’s unpredictability will draw these out, and what defines you now will be mere shades and hues of a more vibrant you over the next five, 10, 50 years. Honestly, I can’t think of anything more liberating than that: knowing that life will look differently than you think it will. It”s sure different for me.”

8. Nick Offerman to the University of Illinois’ Class of 2017:

“Tell the truth. Treat people with the best manners, and work hard. If you’re going to do a job, do it right. What is behind all these nuggets I’ve imparted today? The answer has always been love. Figure out how best to love and be loved. It all turns on affection. The main thing that has driven my teachers and yours has been simply affection for others and the good works that they might in turn undertake. You can always be looking for teachers. Surround youself with smart, funny, interesting people from different places who have seen different things. I got one of the foxiest teachers I ever met to marry me (Megan Mullally).”

9. Janelle Monáe to Dillard University’s Class of 2017:

“[The secrets to life are]: No. 1, the importance of being gracious. No. 2, the importance of being proud. No. 3, the importance of choosing freedom over fear.”

10. J.K. Simmons to University of Montana’s Class of 2016:

“Be here now. It’s something that I continue to tell myself: to appreciate the moment, to live life as it is happening, not dwell on the past, not be too anxious about the future but to do my best to be here now.

Take care of yourself: Eat your vegetables. Get some exercise. Floss. Use your turn signal. I know that has nothing to do with taking care of yourself. It’s just a pet peeve of mine. I needed to get that off my chest. Be on time. Please have the decency to not make people wait for you.

Take your telephone and use it to make a telephone call. Call an old person. Call your mom. Call your dad.”

11. Kerry Washington to George Washington University’s Class of 2013:

“When you leave here today and commence the next stage of your life, you can follow someone else’s script, try to make choices that will make other people happy, avoid discomfort, do what is expected, and copy the status quo. Or you can look at all that you have accomplished today and use it as fuel to venture forth and write your own story. If you do, amazing things will take shape.

You and you alone are the only person that can live the life that writes the story that you were meant to tell. And the world needs your story because the world needs your voice. Every single one of you. And because as your story unfolds, you will inspire others to find their stories, and so on. And those are the stories that I can’t wait to watch.”

12. Amy Poehler to Harvard College’s Class of 2011:

“You never know what is around the corner unless you peek. Hold someone’s hand while you do it. You will feel less scared. You can’t do this alone. Besides, it is much more fun to succeed and fail with other people. You can blame them when things go wrong.

Take your risks now. As you grow older, you become more fearful and less flexible. And I mean that literally. I hurt my knee on the treadmill this week, and it wasn’t even on. Try to keep your mind open to possibilities and your mouth closed on matters that you don’t know about. Limit your ‘always’ and your ‘nevers.’

Continue to share your heart with people even if its been broken. Don’t treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used. And don’t try to give me that nerd argument that your heart is a Batman with a limited edition silver Bat-a-rang and therefore, if it stays in its original package, it increases in value.”

13. Fred Rogers to Dartmouth College’s Class of 2002:

“Beside my chair is a French sentence from Saint-Exupery’s ‘The Little Prince.’ It reads, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye.’ Well, what is essential about you? And who are those who have helped you become the person that you are? Anyone who has ever graduated from a college, anyone who has ever been able to sustain a good work, has had at least one person and often many who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.

I’d like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Some of them may be here right now. Some may be far away. Some, like my astronomy professor, may even be in heaven. But wherever they are, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside yourself.

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you. It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our lives from which we make our choices is very good stuff.”

14. Andy Samberg to Harvard College’s Class of 2012:

“In the days ahead, a lot of people will tell you to trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to take chances. I’m definitely one of those people. But I would also say this: Don’t rush into the next phase of your life whether it’s grad school at Harvard or grad school at MIT or massively disappointing your parents by exploring your art-made-out-of-garbage thing.

Whatever it is you try, make sure it’s what you really want to do, because the only person who knows what that is, is you. If all else fails, just remember these beautiful words from the film Dead Poet’s Society: ‘Neil is dead! My boy!’ Which, now that I’ve said out loud, did not quite drive home my point as much as I had hoped.

15. J.K. Rowling to Harvard University’s Class of 2008:

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.”

16. Steven Spielberg to Harvard University’s Class of 2016:

“What you choose to do next is what we call in the movies the character-defining moment. Now, these moments you’re very familiar with, like in the last Star Wars, The Force Awakens, when Rey realizes the Force is with her, or Indiana Jones choose mission over fear by jumping into a pile of snakes. In a two-hour movie, you get a handful of character-defining moments. But in real life, you face them every day. Life is one long string of character-defining moments.

Up until the 1980s, most of my movies were what you would call escapist. I don’t dismiss any of these movies, not even 1941. Not even that one. Many of these early films reflected the values I cared deeply about, and I still do. But it was in a celluloid bubble because I cut my education short. My worldview was limited to what I could dream up in my head, not what the world could teach me.

But then I directed The Color Purple. And this one film opened my eyes to experiences that I never could have imagined and yet were all too real. This story was filled with deep pain and deeper truths, like when Shug Avery says, ‘Everything wants to be loved.’ My gut, which was my intuition, told me more people needed to meet these characters and experience these truths. While making that film, I realized a movie could also be a mission. I hope all of you find that sense of mission.”