Robert De Niro’s commencement speech at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has gone viral, and you can see the full video here. The acting legend tells the NYU graduates, “You made it. And, you’re f—-ed” and goes on to speak of the sacrifice and the reward of following one’s passion in the arts versus seeking a profession such as dentistry or teaching where one has more likelihood of employment.
The two-time Oscar-winning actor has drawn notice for pulling no punches as they say. Every commencement season brings us some classic speeches and this is among them. It will go viral in perpetuity on YouTube and it will be quoted time and time again.
Robert De Niro speaks the truth, and the truth will always trump euphemism when it comes to commencement addresses.
And yes, we know it’s tough to make it in the arts, and as he addressed the graduating class at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts he told them, “You made it. And, you’re f—ked” and has thus made headlines.
But in just a few words, one of which is unprintable of course, he has summed up the dilemma. He goes on to say, “You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion.”
Continuing, he said, “When you feel that you can’t fight it, you just go for it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.”
Yes, as you can see in the video below, this is greeted with wild applause.
De Niro went on to say, “You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.”
He reiterated his theme, saying, “Yeah you’re f—ed. The good news is that that’s not a bad place to start. Now that you’ve made your choice, or rather succumbed to it, your path is clear. It’s not easy, but clear. You have to keep working; it’s that simple.”
He went on to say that in so doing they were “opening a door to a lifetime of rejection” and that it was “inevitable.” He added, “How do you cope? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work. But you don’t want to block the pain too much. Without the pain, what would we talk about?”
He said, “Rejection might sting, but my feeling is that often, it has very little to do with you. “When you’re auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have someone different in mind, that’s just how it is.”
He interjected a moment of levity as he said, “That happened recently when I was auditioning for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma. Which was too bad because I could’ve played the hell out of that part—I felt it was written for me!”
He conceded that “the director had something different in mind” and further conceded that “she was right.” He added, “It seems the director is always right.”
And it goes on from there. Wise and solid advice from one of our most celebrated actors, who incidentally, as anyone will see who visits his Wikipedia page, is a high school dropout. In retrospect, a wise decision to follow his passion.
Watch in its entirety Robert De Niro’s NYU commencement address video below!