Commencement Address

Excerpts From Whoopi Goldberg's Commencement Address to the Wellesley College Class of 2002

Note: We are unable to publish Ms. Goldberg's address in its entirety. Below are some excerpts from her remarks.

I'm really proud of all you women because as I came in I saw your loved ones, and the thing that I saw in their faces, which is what kills me everytime I do something like this (which is rare because I don't want trouble when it doesn't work out the way I say it's going to), but the thing that was so wonderful was seeing everybody's hopes and dreams realized -- or a great many of the hopes and dreams realized -- and seeing all those little kids and realize that in their seeing you all, that their hopes and dreams are possible. And this is the key thing, because, let's face it, since September 11 the world has been vastly different, and we can be as wonderful and as marvelous a group of women as we choose to be, but what really counts right now is who you wish to be from here on in.

You are more prepared right now than anyone else in this room. You are facing stuff we have never had to think about. And it doesn't matter about your shoes, or how much money you have, or where you are from, or what your color is. …They will try to make you believe that it is not OK to be an individual -- that it's not OK to be different. In some way shape or form, it is. I am living proof that it is OK to be different.

This world truly does require your help. It requires your ears. It requires your pausing a moment before you get flippant with somebody…. You've got to pause. The world right now is about pause -- before you speak, before you pass judgement, before you decide what somebody else is not, check your own basket. Check your own basket. If you hear nothing else today, if you take nothing else with you, before you go to make that judgement, check your own basket. Because what you say and how you act towards people, has taken on new meaning.

We are going to get older, but what counts is as we age, are we better? Are we better? Facial stuff? It falls. That's why they have Botox commercials, honey. Physical? It can go away like that! Chest will fall. Backside gets bigger. Those things, they're kind of nice for two years. I admit it. But who you are beyond all of that is the most difficult task you have. Being yourself is going to be the hardest thing you do in your life.

Do you understand how important it is to take yourselves with you? You will evolve and change -- it's part of life. Things you thought were really smart two years ago may not seem as smart next year. But that's OK, too. It's OK not to be absolutely sure what you want to do right now. Not everybody does now. Not everybody does now. It's OK to check things out. Just because you are graduating doesn't mean you have to do the finite thing, but you must, must, must believe that you have the right to check different stuff out. You have the right to be whoever you want to be. And this, for me, is all that really matters.

Allow yourselves to be celebrated. Allow [your family] to take great pleasure in your accomplishment because they're living a little through you. And by God, look at what you've given them. Look at what you did!! Everybody always says, "Oh the youth of today, they can't do anything." You did it! You did it! Just for a second turn around and look at each other, just turn around and look at each other. You did it! You did it! You did it! You did it! You did it! You did it! You did it! OK, you did it!

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Read the full citations.