Graduation season has arrived, and today at the University of Southern California, the graduates were treated to an extra special commencement address by USC alum Will Ferrell, who also received an honorary degree from the school and can now say he’s a Doctor of Humane Letters. In the address, Ferrell looked back on his college years before he started pursuing comedy as a career, how he got hired on SNL, how he deals with criticism, his struggle to break into movies after he left SNL, what he considers success in life, and more. Here’s an excerpt where Ferrell looks back on his years as a student pursuing a USC degree that no longer exists:
As a freshman in the fall of 1986, if you were to come up to me and say that in the year 2017 you, Will Ferrell, will be delivering the commencement address for USC, I would’ve hugged you with tears in my eyes. I then would’ve asked this person from the future: “Does that mean I graduated?” “Yes, you did,” says the person from the future … It turns out I did graduate in 1990 with a degree in Sports Information. Yes, you heard me, Sports Information – a program so difficult, so arduous that they discontinued the major eight years after I left. Those of us with Sports Information degrees are an elite group – we’re like the Navy SEALs of USC graduates: there are very few of us, and there’s a high dropout rate.
On fear, insecurity, and how it never really goes away:
Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t extremely confident that I would succeed during this time period, and after moving back to LA there were many a night where, in my LA apartment, I would sit down to a meal of spaghetti topped with mustard with only $20 in my checking account. And I would think to myself, “Oh well, I can always be a substitute school teacher.” And yes, I was afraid — you’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech. And now I am just realizing how many people are watching me right now, and it’s scary. Can you please look away while I deliver the rest of the speech? … But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of “What if?” What if I never tried at all?
Some encouraging advice for the graduates, which he followed it up by singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”:
To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do with your life: Congratulations. For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard, don’t listen to the critics, and you will figure it out. Class of 2017, I just want you to know you will never be alone on whatever path you may choose. If you do have a moment where you feel a little down, just think about the support you have from this great Trojan family. And imagine me — literally picture my face — singing this song gently into your ear.
Watch Ferrell’s full address above.