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Robert De Niro gives commencement speech at Bates College in Maine

By Daniel S Levine,

Actor Robert De Niro added a little humor to the graduation ceremony at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. The Oscar-winner received an honorary doctorate from the university and had some words of advice to give the graduating students and their families.

“I have one message for you, class of 2012: Stay in school,” the Raging Bull actor told the crowd as it broke into laughter.

According to The Associated Press, De Niro was just one of three high-profile guests who attended the commencement. PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill and Princeton University molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler were also honored with honorary doctorates.

“With all due respect to Gwen Ifill and Bonnie Bassler, I think this is the most important piece of advice you’ll get today: become a movie star,” De Niro, who never completed high school so he could be an actor, told the 463 graduating students. “Now, you might be tempted by other careers, other interests, other commitments. There might be pressure on you to change the world, but you want to find the strength to resist.”

He added, “When I started, I wasn’t a movie star, and it sucked...The moment I became a movie star, things started to get better.”

Later in his 15-minute address, he did have some good advice to share, notes The Bangor Daily News. “Trying to improve society isn’t a cliche, it’s a worthy goal...Thinking about and doing the right thing is a cliche, but so what? It’s also the worthiest of goals. If you’re an actor, always be true to your character. If you’re not an actor, always have character and always be true to yourself.”

 
 

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