next graduation speech

Natalie Portman

Oscar-winning Actress
Harvard University, 2015

It's a cliché because it's true — helping others ends up helping you more than anyone. Getting out of your own concerns and caring about someone else's life for a while reminds you that you are not the center of the universe.

COMMENCEMENT SPEECH EXCERPTS

"I have to admit that today, even 12 years after graduation, I'm still insecure about my own worthiness."

"Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard as a freshman in 1999. I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress."

"When I got to Harvard, just after the release of 'Star Wars: Episode 1,' I feared people would assume I had gotten in just for being famous and not worthy of the intellectual rigor here. And they would not have been far from the truth. When I came here, I had never written a 10-page paper before. I was alarmed and intimidated by the calm eyes of fellow students who thought that the workload here was easy compared to high school. I was completely overwhelmed, and thought that reading 1,000 pages a week was unimaginable or that writing a 50-page thesis was something that I could never do. "

"I had been acting since I was 11 but I thought that acting was too frivolous and certainly not meaningful. I came from a family of academics and was very concerned with being taken seriously."

"Some combination of being 19, dealing with my first heartbreak, taking birth control pills that have since been taken off the market for their depressive side affects, and spending too much time missing daylight during winter months led me to some pretty dark moments particularly during sophomore year. There were several occasions I started crying during meetings with professors, overwhelmed with what I was supposed to pull off when I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning."

"When I got to my graduation, after four years of trying to get excited about something else, I admitted to myself that I couldn't wait to go back and make more films. I wanted to tell stories, imagine the lives of others, and help others to do the same. My Harvard degree represents to me the curiosity and invention that we're encouraged here, the friendships I've maintained."

"Make use of the fact that you don't doubt yourself too much right now. As we get older, we get more realistic and that includes about our own abilities or lack thereof. That realism does us no favors."

"Fear protects us in many ways, but what has served me is diving into my own obliviousness. Being more confident than I should be ... trying things that you never would have tried. Your inexperience is an asset in that it will make you think in original, unconventional ways. Accept your lack of knowledge and use it as your asset."

"The point is, if I had known my own limitations, I never would have taken the risk, and the risk led to one of my greatest personal and professional achievements."

"The most fulfilling things I've experienced have truly been the human interactions."

"It's a cliché because it's true — helping others ends up helping you more than anyone. Getting out of your own concerns and caring about someone else's life for a while reminds you that you are not the center of the universe."

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Posted on: 12/27/15


 

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