Robert De Niro's Commencement Speech & 9 Other Awesome Celebrity Addresses
By now, you'll probably have seen Robert De Niro's commencement address to the graduating class of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, which he delivered at the school's graduation ceremony this past week. Simply put, it was amazing. Anyone who can open a speech to a group of college graduates with the words, "To Tisch graduates, you made it... and you're f**ked" is not only hilarious, but probably has some pretty great things to say — and indeed he did. De Niro's speech was honest and inspiring, and allowed him to join the long line of celebs who have delivered some amazing last words to students before they head out into the "real world".
I'm not really sure how the trend of having Hollywood stars give commencement addresses became a thing, but given how many amazing ones there have been over the year, I'm pretty glad it happened. From Puff Daddy to Jon Stewart and plenty in between, celebrities have made graduation days much more fun — and most definitely more memorable. Plus, we're lucky enough to live in the time of social media, meaning every single one of those speeches has been caught on camera and put online, so we can re-watch and re-inspire ourselves any time.
Bono at The University of Pennsylvania (2004)
I mean, Bono is pretty much the biggest get in the world, so UPenn students really lucked out back in 2004 when he took the stage at their graduation ceremony. Bono's speech was motivational and encouraging, while also being just self-deprecating enough not to be too hippy-dippy. In other words, it was awesome.
Meryl Streep at Barnard College (2010)
Streep is basically a complete queen, so anything that comes out of her mouth is worth listening to. Her speech at Barnard — an all-women's school within Columbia University — praised the power of the female gender and encouraged graduates to embrace the things which make them unique. Oh, and you should also try to make your parents proud. That's pretty important, too.
Amy Poehler at Harvard University (2011)
Being from Boston, Poehler was a natural choice to address the Ivy League university's departing class back in 2011. She did so with her trademark wit, but also a heartwarming sincerity. Poehler is one of the most inspiring women in Hollywood, and she showed just why with this speech.
Julie Andrews at University of Colorado (2013)
Julie Andrews is a living legend, so how the University of Colorado got her, I'll never know. One thing I do know is that they were damn lucky for it. She encouraged graduates to continue learning throughout their lives and also to "leave everything you do, every place you go, everything you touch a little better for your having been there." Ugh, I'm getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Barack Obama at Wesleyan University (2008)
Barack Obama didn't get to become President of the United States because he's bad at public speaking, that's for sure. He's one of the most astute, articulate people I've ever seen, and those skills were on full display at Wesleyan's commencement in 2008. He left students and attendees inspired, as ever.
Conan O'Brien at Dartmouth College (2011)
It's always going to be a good time when you invite a comedian to deliver a speech at a momentous event, and O'Brien didn't disappoint.The best part of his address was the fact that he prepared students for life after college: it can be difficult, it can be unfair, you can fail. However, as he pointed out, you always need to TRY.
Oprah Winfrey at Spelman College (2012)
Sit back and close your eyes and try to think of the celebrity that most exemplifies your idea of "success", and I guarantee that Oprah Winfrey is likely the person that came to mind. She overcame tremendous adversity to become pretty much the most powerful woman on the planet. If that's not going to make graduates want to go out and conquer the world, I don't know what will.
Ellen DeGeneres at Tulane University (2009)
DeGeneres has been making audiences laugh for decades, and she wasn't about to change that at Tulane University. And while there were plenty of jokes, she also got real, sharing her past struggles and how directionless she felt when she was younger. But it got better, and she's living proof that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
Stephen Colbert at Northwestern University (2011)
We're all so used to seeing Colbert as the character he's played on TV all these years, but experiencing him in person, as genuinely himself, is arguably even better. I won't spoil this too much, but it's my favorite of the bunch.
To watch Robert De Niro's speech at NYU, click play below.
Image: Getty Images