Political Education

Robert de Niro tells arts graduates exactly what they need to hear


Formidable actor Robert De Niro delivered what is likely to be billed the most honest commencement speech of all time last Friday. The acting legend was funny, brutal, and surprisingly hopeful about the fates of his audience, the newly graduated Class of 2015 from New York University’s acclaimed Tisch School of the Arts.

Tisch graduates, you made it. And you’re fucked,” he bluntly remarked.

De Niro slammed down a huge reality check on the metaphorical table of life, continuing his speech with comments about the inevitable struggle of choosing a creative path. The Class of 2015, according to De Niro, had made a decision to abandon a safe, pragmatic, and economically-sound life. But to De Niro, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Reason, logic, common sense at the Tisch School of Arts? Are you kidding me? But you didn’t have that choice, did you? You discovered a talent, developed an ambition, and recognized your passion,” he said.

De Niro encouraged the new graduates to eschew practical thinking to achieve success in their chosen field. “When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.”

He continued his speech with further advice about dealing with rejection, saying, “without the pain, what would we talk about?” Answering his own question, he quipped, “I hear that Valium and Vicodin work.”

The two-time Oscar winner spoke about his experiences as an actor and a creative, and simultaneously produced a speech that served to reassure the new class, and remind them of the truth of their choices.

If only we all got Robert De Niro at our graduation ceremonies. After all, without our passions, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.


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