Steven Spielberg

Director Steven Spielberg recently made the trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to speak to the Harvard graduates of 2016. Although the director dropped out of college his sophomore year after landing a dream job at Universal Studios, he ultimately returned to Cal State University and earned his bachelor’s degree, long after he had established himself as one of the most successful filmmakers in the industry. “I went [back] for my kids,” he said. “I’m the father of seven, and I kept insisting on the importance of going to college, but I hadn’t walked the walk.” At the age of 55, he made that walk.

Below, watch the Steven Spielberg Harvard commencement speech.

It’s a lovely, perceptive, and sometimes “unapologetically sentimental” but honest speech; it’s both entertaining and personal, as expected from Spielberg:

Apparently only Steven Spielberg is capable of wearing a pair of sneakers with a suit while still maintaining a sense of class. While I found myself wanting to write down almost every word that came out of his mouth, I instead highlighted a few notable quotes of his, although all of you should watch the entire speech.

  • “What you choose to do next is what we call in the movies ‘the character defining moment.’ Now, these moments you’re very familiar with, like in the last Star Wars, The Force Awakens, when Rey realizes the force is with her, or Indiana Jones choosing mission over fear by jumping into a pile of snakes. In a two-hour movie, you get a handful of character defining moments, but in real life, you face them every day; life is one long string of character defining moments.”Social media that we’re innovated and swarmed with is about the here and now, but I’ve been fighting and fighting inside my own family to get all my kids to look behind them, to look at what already has happened. Because to understand who they are is to understand who we were, and who they’re grandparents were, and then what this country was like when they immigrated here. We are a nation of immigrants, at least for now,” he joked. “To me, this means we all have to tell our own stories. We have so many stories to tell. Talk to your parents and your grandparents if you can, and ask them about their stories, and I promise
  • “Social media that we’re innovated and swarmed with is about the here and now, but I’ve been fighting and fighting inside my own family to get all my kids to look behind them, to look at what already has happened. Because to understand who they are is to understand who we were, and who their grandparents were, and then what this country was like when they immigrated here. We are a nation of immigrants, at least for now,” he said with a laugh. “To me, this means we all have to tell our own stories. We have so many stories to tell. Talk to your parents and your grandparents if you can, and ask them about their stories. I promise you, like I have promised my kids, you will not be bored. That’s why I so often make movies based on real-life events. I look to history not be didactic–because that’s just a bonus–but I look because the past is filled with the greatest stories have ever been told. Heroes and villains are not literally constructs, but they are at the heart of all history.”
  • “Up until the 1980s, most of my movies were what you could call ‘escapist.’ I don’t dismiss any of these movies, not even 1941. Not even that one. Many of these early films reflected the values I cared deeply about, and I still do, but I was in a celluloid bubble because I cut my education short. My worldview was limited to what I could dream up in my head, not what the world could teach me. But then I directed The Color Purple–and this one film opened my eyes to experiences that I never could have imagined, and yet were all too real. This story was filled with deep pain and deeper truths, like when Shug Avery says, ‘Everything wants to be loved.’ My gut, which was my intuition, told me more people needed to meet these characters and experience these truths. While making that film, I realized a movie could also be a mission. I hope all of you find that sense of mission.”
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