Robert De Niro speaks frankly to NYU graduates

"When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense," De Niro said at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts' commencement on Friday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro congratulated graduates as he gave a commencement speech at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts’ commencement on Friday.

At the Madison Square Garden-set ceremony, De Niro said graduates with degrees in nursing, dentistry, business, law and education all have a future of stability ahead of them, a choice other students made using reason and logic, but one that the crop of performers could not ever make.

De Niro, who quit high school to become an actor said “The school of medicine graduates, each will get a job but you are opening a door to a lifetime of rejection.” 

He added "You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can't fight it, you just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren't just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny. ... You're an artist — yeah, you're f—d. The good news is that's not a bad place to start."

De Niro’s speech for the Tisch School of Arts already took its place amongst other legendary celebrity graduation speeches. 

The actor continued his speech to explain what the future holds for the art school graduates. "Now that you've made your choice or, rather, succumbed to it your path is clear. Not easy, but clear. You have to keep working, it's that simple. You got through Tisch, that's a big deal. Or, to put it another way, you got through Tisch? Big deal!”

De Niro added  "A new door is opening for you — a door to a lifetime of rejection. It's inevitable," he warned of post-graduate life. "How do you cope? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work! ... You don't want to block the pain too much. Without the pain, what would we talk about?"

De Niro’s speech was greeted and interrupted with loud applauses many times. 

He said “Rejection — it isn't personal. "Next!" a phrase to be shouted when "you didn't get that part" or "you didn't get that waiter's job at the White Oak Tavern. ... There will be times when your best isn't good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best, it's okay. Did you get straight A's in school? If you did, good for you, congratulations. But in the real world, you'll never get straight A's again."

As he was finishing his speech, referring to the projects he produced with Martin Scorsese, he said "Treasure the associations and friendships and working relationships with the people in your classes and your easily work. You never know what might come from it."

He wrapped his his speech by saying "I'm here to hand out my pictures and resumes to the directing and producing graduates!" 

TRTWorld and agencies