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Will Ferrell Closes USC Commencement Speech With ‘I Will Always Love You’

Variety logo Variety 5/12/2017 Erin Nyren
© Provided by Variety

Will Ferrell delivered the 134th commencement speech for 2017’s class of graduates at his alma mater, the University of Southern California, on Friday, ending the speech with a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Ferrell, who graduated in 1990, was also awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters at the ceremony. He kept his speech light-hearted and self-deprecating, acknowledging the parents who, he said, were probably wondering, “Will Ferrell? Why Will Ferrell? I hate Will Ferrell.”

He went on to compare his own achievements, which include “running naked through the city of Montrose in ‘Old School,’ running around in underwear and racing helmet, thinking I’m on fire, in ‘Talladega Nights,’ running around in elf tights eating gum off the ground, and playing cowbell,” to the achievements of the other ceremony’s recipients of honorary doctorates, such as an HIV researcher, an orthopaedic spinal surgeon, a legislator, and Dame Helen Mirren.

Ferrell told the students of the day he earned his degree in Sports Information. “A degree so arduous, they discontinued the program eight years after I left,” he said. “We’re like the Navy SEALs of USC graduates.”

He shared how he had barged in on classes taught by a Professor Ron Gottesman, whose enthusiasm for his impersonation of a janitor encouraged him to pursue comedy as a career. After joining comedy troupe the Groundlings, he went on to be cast in “Saturday Night Live,” which provided him with a jumping off point for the rest of his career.

Throughout, Ferrell emphasized the importance of achieving what he considers true success — kindness and empathy toward others. He advised students not to worry if they didn’t have it all figured out, and to “keep throwing darts at the dartboard,” as he did.

Ferrell capped the speech with a not-too-shabby rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” telling graduates to think of him singing it softly into their ear if they ever felt down in their upcoming careers.

Ferrell will star in upcoming film “The House” alongside Amy Poehler, as a couple who lose their children’s college fund and set up casino in their home to make up the funds. The film premieres June 30.

See Ferrell’s full speech above (which begins at the one hour, 28 minute mark).

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