Below is the full transcript of Ellen DeGeneres’ 2009 commencement speech at Tulane University on May 16, 2009.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Ellen DeGeneres’ 2009 Commencement Speech at Tulane University
Scott Cowen – 14th President, Tulane University
How does one introduce a woman who was on a first name basis with the world? Imagine that Ellen is speaking at your ceremony and everyone instantly knows to whom you’re referring. Yet one feels compelled to mention her 12 Emmys, her hosting of the Academy awards, her career as a stand-up comedian and her daily hosting of an award-winning TV series, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And of course, her dancing. Most recently her career has turned even more glamorous as a new face of CoverGirl Cosmetics.
But I want you to flash back to 2006 with me. Tulane’s first ceremony after Katrina, our speakers were President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The atmosphere in the arena is electric with excitement. The flashbulbs are popping and the graduates are gleeful. Who would dare follow that? Ellen strolls in, at the end, as a surprise, wearing a hotel bathrobe and with a three-minute talk, steals the show. Ever since, each graduating class when asked who to select a speaker says, “We want Ellen back”.
And I’m here to tell you – you came back and Ellen came back – please join me welcome Ellen DeGeneres.
Ellen DeGeneres – Comedian
Oh boy, thank you so much, thank you so much. Thank you, President Cowan, Mrs. President Cowen; distinguished guests, undistinguished guests, you know who you are, honored faculty and creepy Spanish teacher. 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’m 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.