CSU should add a celebrity to their list of commencement speakers

Haleigh McGill

At my spring 2016 graduation as well as those to come, I would want to hear a commencement speech from some extraordinary person that the majority of the graduating class has admired from this side of the celebrity-obscurity divide. 

We’ve seen their success in public careers such as acting, professional sports or politics, but the opportunity to hear a about how they got there before we begin forming our own legacies would be unforgettable. I am aware that not every member of a graduating class wants to be a celebrity, but I think that most if not all of us hope to eventually find ourselves in some kind of spotlight relevant to our career fields of choice. 


Don’t get me wrong, the speakers that have graced previous CSU graduations are reputable, sincere and knowledgeable professionals who have significant life experience to share. And in addition to their expertise and relevant anecdotes, I think that it would be beneficial to represent the end of the spectrum that includes those who have had the privilege and the opportunity to use their celebrity status for purposes that go far, far beyond the individual.

I’m not talking about sensationalist-type celebrities like Kanye West, Miley Cyrus or any of the Kardashians. I’m talking about the celebrities whose lives exude so much passion, courage, authenticity, selflessness, resilience and fulfillment that their advice would be very highly coveted and priceless. At my graduation, I would want to hear from someone who was just so good at what they did that they couldn’t be overlooked or passed up — someone whose work, legacy and character are held in high regard by audiences all across the world.

Someone like Jim Carrey, whose 2014 commencement speech left the Maharishi School of Management graduates with incredibly valuable and moving wisdom from his 30-year career as an award-winning actor, comedian and founder of two charity projects. Carrey explained how his desire to “free people from concern” was what led him to great success based on humor and its ability to help people cope with life. His point was that people should dare to build futures out of their true passions and seemingly impossible dreams, because whether we find ourselves doing what we love or doing something we hate, there is always a chance that we could fail.

“Many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality,” Carrey said. “What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it.”

The world is a pretty cruel place, and you won’t often find a small group of highly successful professionals who have shown up just to remind you that you are capable of great things and to follow your dream. So I want to leave college with as much last-minute inspiration and wisdom as possible. 

I think every single one of us would like to believe that we would be brave enough to pursue the entirety of our ultimate dream, but when that moment comes to either jump with uncertainty or remain safely on the edge, too many of us will regret choosing the latter. This all might sound flowery or cliché, but according to a study discussed in an article from Daily Mail, 47 percent of adults in their 40s regretted their chosen careers and wished they had followed their dream instead. A life of regrets and painful what-ifs? No, thank you.

Before I leave CSU, which I consider to be the last of the safer, kinder stops before real life begins, I need to hear from those who made it in this world, big and small, and who experienced important failures on all levels. Just before the beginning of my professional life in a world that will constantly tell me I am not good enough, I need to hear from celebrities like Jim Carrey who were brave enough to take a chance on themselves no matter how high the odds were stacked.

That’s not to say that the non-celebrity graduation speakers aren’t brave or significantly talented, but there is something exceptionally compelling about those increasingly rare celebrities who are sincere, generous and enlightened because they made their career from scratch for reasons that weren’t in the name of fame and fortune. At one point, they were next-to-nobodies, like most of us are right now, who simply refused to let fears, doubts and reasons to play it safe limit their potential. They saw possibility in the world, and made the world see them. 

I think that expanding the realm of success and possibility represented on CSU’s lists of graduation speakers is key to further convincing every student that we deserve to take our big chance in the real world, whatever that may look like.

Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.