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

126648 Folder Collection
Anni published on June 7, 2017    Anni translated    Amber Chang reviewed
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