In a continuation of our series on commencement speeches, I wanted to share Ellen DeGeneres’s address to the “Katrina Class” at Tulane University this year. DeGeneres is funny and playful, very funny at times, like when she reveals that she never attended college: “I’m not saying you wasted your time and money, but look at me, I’m a HUGE celebrity.”
She also talks about the costs and gifts of adversity, including her experience coming out as a gay performer. DeGeneres made a very deliberate choice to walk away from shame and fear, a choice that came at the price of her immediate career. For years she was considered untouchable by the Hollywood community. She spent this period learning to live without apology, and by the end of it she “had a purpose.” And a wildly successful talk show. And access to an extraordinary platform for impact.