“Sincerity, truly feeling things deeply and expressing this genuinely and behaving righteously, is the bridge between yourself and what we want. Because who we are deep down is all that really matters,” the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker added, imparting her experience and insights to the Los Angeles students. (Read DuVernay’s full commencement speech below.)
As Tinseltown is in full FYC mode right now, that another type of awards season in full swing too around Hollywood and the nation. Still mainly virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, graduations galore are underway — and that means commencement speeches like what DuVernay delivered today.
“While today’s ceremony is virtual, the pride and compliments our students feel at this moment is genuine and well deserved,” Compton College president and CEO Dr. Keith Curry said at the top of today’s ceremony. “Every student is a success story.”
Check out the ceremony below (DuVernay’s address begins at 32:40):
The address from the self-described “proud Compton native” and UCLA grad comes just days after DuVernay and the Array collective she founded a decade ago received the Peabody’s prestigious Institutional Award for its multi-platform work disrupting media hierarchies and amplifying underrepresented voices. Along with a dance card full of projects such as a young Colin Kaepernick limited series for Netflix, the Rosario Dawson-starring DMZ for HBO Max, the animated Wings of Fire adaptation for Netflix, and the upcoming CW superhero drama Naomi, the Queen Sugar creator and activist herself was deemed an honorary Doctor of the Arts by Yale.
Dr. DuVernay, as I guess we need to address her now, has long said she wants to open a movie theater in Compton to show independent films from around the world. Maybe by next year’s graduation. …
Here’s her full commencement speech:
Greetings to each and every family member, loved one, esteemed faculty and staff and President of Compton College, Dr. Keith Curry. As a proud Compton native, I’m so pleased and honored to share a few words with you all on this momentous day in the lives of today’s graduates.
What a time that you, the graduating class of 2021, are all experiencing. When you look back at your college experience. What will you remember?
Will it be…spending your final year of college in a virtual classroom?
Will it be…isolation and economic insecurity in a global pandemic?
Will it be…the trauma of witnessing torture and murder of Black and Brown people in the streets of America transmitted on TV screens and social media platforms?
Will you remember the pain, the fear?
Probably. It shouldn’t be forgotten.
But will you also remember:
…the spending more time with the people that you love.
… doing something you never used to make time for?
… discovering what you really want out of this life?
In a year that brought so much pain… I hope that for you – as you embark on the next chapter of your life – that it also brought… Clarity. Perspective. And Hope.
Some good things have happened that are worthy of our hope. The most voter participation in 120 years… Historic election wins for women and people of color… Protection for LGBTQ employees’ rights… Health care and essential workers finally being hailed as the heroes they have always been. a society that is safely reopening post-pandemic … a social justice awakening for many and a social justice movement for many others.
If this time has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. I hope that what you’ve learned in an unpredictable year, is that with unpredictability comes opportunity. The opportunity to evaluate what is right in front of you. To focus on the most important things in each of our lives. To recalibrate your perspective. Your energy. Your intention. Your motive. Your purpose. To embrace the opportunity to be — sincere.
Very few people realize what power sincerity carries. To be genuine in your actions. However physically strong a person may be, they can be kept down by their falsehood; it never allows you to rise. Those who have done great things in life, in whatever walk of life it be, have done them by the power of truth, the power of sincerity. They believe in something. Truly. Sincerely. When that is lacking, power is lacking.
The more sincerity is developed, the greater share of truth you’ll have. Sincerity, truly feeling things deeply and expressing this genuinely and behaving righteously, is the bridge between yourself and what we want. Because who we are deep down is all that really matters.
So allow that diploma you’re receiving today to be a reminder of who you are and what you want. Let it be a guiding light that always brings you back to this day – when you were proud of yourself, when you were at the height of hope, and when you embraced all the parts of you – sincerely. Let all that goodness propel you forward as you journey on.
I’ll leave you with these words from a Native American writer named Louise Erdrich.
“You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”
I hope you taste this life and all that is ahead of you. And I hope it is delicious. My sincerest congratulations to you, class of 2021. Go out there and do your best.