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  • Thank you, President Cowan, Mrs. President Cowen

  • distinguished guests, undistinguished guests - you know who you are

  • honored faculty and creepy Spanish teacher

  • so,and thank you to all the graduating class of 2009

  • I realize most of you are hungover and have splitting headaches and haven't slept since Fat Tuesday

  • but you can't graduate 'til I finish, so listen up.

  • When I was asked to make the commencement speech

  • I immediately said yes

  • Then I went to look up what commencement meant

  • Which would have been easy if I had a dictionary

  • but most of the books in our house are Portia's

  • and they're all written in Australian

  • So I had to break the word down myself, to find out the meaning.

  • Commencement: common, and cement

  • Common cement. You commonly see cement on sidewalks

  • Sidewalks have cracks, and if you step on a crack, you break your mother's back

  • So there's that

  • But I'm honored that you've asked me here to speak at your common cement.

  • I thought that you had to be a famous alumnus

  • - alumini - aluminum - alumis - you had to graduate from this school.

  • And I didn't go to college here, and I don't know if President Cowan knows,I didn't go to any college at all

  • Any college. And I'm not saying you wasted your time, or money

  • but look at me, I am a huge celebrity.

  • Although I did graduate from the school of hard knocks our mascot was the knockers

  • I spent a lot of time here growing up.

  • My mom worked at Newcomb and I would go there every time I needed to steal something out of her purse

  • But why am I here today?

  • Clearly not to steal, you're too far away and I'd never get away with it.

  • I'm here because of you.

  • Because I can't think of a more tenacious, more courageous graduating class.

  • I mean, look at you all, wearing your robes

  • Usually when you're wearing a robe at 10 in the morning, it means you've given up.

  • I'm here because I love New Orleans

  • I was born and raised here, I spent my formative years here, and like you

  • while I was living here I only did laundry six times.

  • When I finished school, I was completely lost.

  • And by school, I mean middle school, but I went ahead and finished high school anyway.

  • And I - I really, I had no ambition, I didn't know what I wanted to do.

  • I did everything from - I shucked oysters, I was a hostess, I was a bartender, I was a waitress,

  • I painted houses, I sold vacuum cleaners, I had no idea.

  • And I thought I'd just finally settle in some job, and I would make enough money to pay my rent

  • maybe have basic cable, maybe not, I didn't really have a plan,my point is that, by the time I was your age,

  • I really thought I knew who I was, but I had no idea.

  • Like for example, when I was your age, I was dating men.

  • So what I'm saying is, when you're older, most of you will be gay.

  • Anyone writing this stuff down? Parents?

  • Anyway, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life

  • and the way I ended up on this path was from a very tragic event.

  • I was maybe 19, and my girlfriend at the time was killed in a car accident

  • And I passed the accident, and I didn't know it was her and I kept going

  • and I found out shortly after that, it was her.

  • And I was living in a basement apartment, I had no money,

  • I had no heat, no air, I had a mattress on the floor and the apartment was infested with fleas.

  • And I was soul-searching, I was like, why is she suddenly gone, and there are fleas here?

  • I don't understand, there must be a purpose, and wouldn't it be so convenient

  • if we could pick up the phone and call God, and ask these questions.

  • And I started writing and what poured out of me was an imaginary conversation with God

  • which was one sided and I finished writing it and I looked at it,

  • and I said to myself -- and I hadn't even been doing stand up, ever

  • there was no club in town, and I said I'm going to do this on the the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

  • at the time he was the king, and I'm gonna be the first woman on the history of the show

  • to be called over to sit down, and several years later

  • I was the first woman in the history of the show,

  • and the only woman in the history of the show,to sit down

  • because of that phone conversation with God that I wrote

  • And I started this path of stand up and it was successful,

  • and it was great, but it was hard because I was trying to please everybody,

  • and I had this secret that I was keeping that I was gay

  • and I thought that if people found out they wouldn't like me and they wouldn't laugh at me

  • then my career turned into -- I got my own sitcom,

  • and that was very successful, another level of success

  • and I thought what if they find out I'm gay?

  • Then they'll never watch...

  • This was a long time ago, this was just when we had White presidents

  • but anyway,this was back, many years ago.

  • And I finally decided that I was living with so much shame

  • and so much fear that I just couldn't live that way anymore

  • and I decided to come out, and make it creative

  • and my character would come out at the same time

  • and it wasn't to make a political statement

  • it wasn't to do anything but free myself from this heaviness that I was carrying around

  • and I just wanted to be honest, and I thought What's the worst that could happen

  • I could lose my career.

  • I did. I lost my career.

  • I got the show was cancelled after six years without even telling me, I read it in the paper.

  • The phone didn't ring for three years

  • I had no offers, nobody wanted to touch me at all

  • And yet, I was getting letters from kids that almost committed suicide,

  • but didn't because of what I did

  • and I realized that I had a purpose

  • and it wasn't just about me, and it wasn't about celebrity

  • but I felt like I was being punished

  • and it was a bad time and I was angry and I was sad

  • and then I was offered a talk show

  • and the people that offered me the talk show tried to sell it

  • and most stations didn't want to pick it up

  • most people didn't want to buy it because they thought nobody would watch me

  • and really when I look back on it, I wouldn't change a thing

  • I mean it was so important for me to lose everything

  • because I found out what the most important thing is, is to be true to yourself

  • and ultimately, that's what has gotten me to this place I don't live in fear, I'm free

  • I don't have any secrets and I know I'll always be OK because no matter what

  • I know who I am.

  • So in conclusion, when I was younger

  • I thought success was something different

  • I thought, when I grow up, I want to be famous, I want to be a star

  • I want to be in movies, when I grow up I want to see the world

  • drive nice cars, I wanna have groupies.

  • To quote the Pussy Cat Dolls.

  • how many people thought it was boobies by the way?

  • It's not -- its groupies

  • but my idea of success is different today and as you'll grow

  • you will realize your definition of success changes.

  • For many of you, today success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila

  • for me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity

  • and not to give in to peer pressure to try to be something that you're not.

  • To live your life as an honest and compassionate person

  • to contribute in some way.

  • so to conclude my conclusion

  • follow your passion, stay true to yourself

  • never follow someone else's path

  • unless you're in the woods and your lost

  • and you see a path, then by all means you should follow that

  • Don't give advice, it'll come back and bite you in the ass

  • don't take anyone's advice.

  • So my advice to you is to

  • be true to yourself and everything will be fine

  • and I know a lot of you are concerned about your future

  • but there is no need to worry, the economy is booming

  • the job market is wide open

  • the planet is just fine

  • it's gonna be great

  • You have already survived a hurricane,what else can happen to you?

  • And as I mentioned before, sometimes the most devastating things that

  • happen to you will teach you the most

  • and now you know the right questions to ask for your first job interview,

  • like, Is it above sea level?

  • so to conclude my conclusion that I've previously concluded in my common cement speech

  • I guess what I'm trying to say is that life is like one big Mardi Gras

  • but instead of showing people your boobs show people your brain

  • and if they like what they see, you'll have more beads than you know what to do with

  • and you'll be drunk.most of the time

  • So to the class of 2009 I say congratulations

  • and if you don't remember a thing I said today

  • remember this: you're gonna be ok

  • dum de dum dum dum, just dance

Thank you, President Cowan, Mrs. President Cowen

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A2 US TheEllenShow cement commencement thought success dum dum

In case you missed my Tulane speech, watch it here!

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    Anni posted on 2014/07/26
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