This time of the year is not only the beginning of the summer movie-going season, but also the graduation season. Students from across the country will make the scary transition from high school to college, college to grad school, or grad school to real life. During the graduation ceremony at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, one of its most famous alumni, Joss Whedon, was invited back to receive an honorary Master of Letters and to deliver the graduating class of 2013’s commencement speech.
Whedon’s speech was inspired! He starts with an anecdote about his graduation from Wesleyan in 1987, and how his commencement speaker, Dr. Bill Cosby, told his graduating class, “You’re not gonna change the world, so don’t try.” So Whedon accepted the challenge and made an Avengers movie that earned $1.52 billion worldwide. In turn, Joss Whedon gave a rousing speech that started off with, “So, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.”
He didn’t mean these words in a negative way; quite the opposite. Whedon wanted the graduates to understand that life is short, and those fleeting moments can only be appreciated if you’re aware that life ends. Ultimately, Joss Whedon’s speech surrounds the idea of embracing life and trying new and different things. Whedon explains:
You will be so many things and the one thing that I wish I’d known, and want to say, is: don’t just be yourself, be all of your selves. Don’t just live, be that other thing connected to death. Be life. Live all of your life. Understand it, see it, appreciate it, and have fun.
Joss Whedon graduated from Wesleyan University with the class of 1987, and since then he has gone on to become a successful television writer and launched a large number of geek-favorite series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and, of course, Firefly. He revolutionized Internet entertainment with the award-winning Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog web series. Whedon made his feature film directorial debut in 2005 with the Firefly spin-off film Serenity, and later went on to direct the third highest grossing movie of all-time, 2012’s The Avengers.
Joss Whedon is currently working on his return to television with the TV series S.H.I.E.L.D. for Marvel Studios and ABC. He is also working on The Avengers 2 and overseeing all of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Two.
If you’re not down with the whole new-fangled “moving pictures” thing, you can read a transcript of Joss’ speech over at at Tor.com.