Friday, July 19, 2024

Lena Waithe delivers powerful commencement speech at Barnard

Emmy Award-winner Lena Waithe has delivered a moving graduation address to the Barnard College community.

Waithe, whose credits include Netflix’s Master of None and Beauty and Showtime’s The Chi, opened up last Wednesday about her own experience of success that left her wanting to “go back to the way things were. Back when there wasn’t so much pressure for me to always get things right. Back when all my friendships were intact. Back when I didn’t feel the need to always be perfect.” I’m sharing some additional quotes below.

Check out the full speech here.


Highlights from Lena Waithe’s Barnard College Commencement Speech:

“People aren’t meant to live on pedestals. I found the air up there way too hard to breathe.”

“What I’d like for you to do is create your own definition of success. Don’t let society tell you what it has to be. I often think we spend our lives chasing society’s idea of success – so much so, that when we finally reach it — we often find ourselves feeling empty and alone.”

“Now I could stand here and say – I had all the success in the world, and when I went home at night — I was miserable… but the truth is – that wasn’t the case. I was pretty happy. Things were good for a while — but eventually the bloom fell off the rose. I wrote a movie that people wished had a different ending, I put my foot in my mouth more than once, and I quickly realized I didn’t know how to exist as this ideal icon everyone wanted me to be. It took me a while to realize: there’s no such thing. People aren’t meant to live on pedestals. The air up there is way too thin — and I found it really hard to breathe.”

“What I worry about for the graduating class of 2023 is that the world truly has become a stage. You, just like me, probably feel a ton of pressure to always say the right thing — to always do the

right thing – and you never want to offend anyone. But if you decide to live your life for other people – especially folks you’ll never meet, you will spend your entire life feeling stifled, anxious, and unable to be yourself — because no one wants to be disliked. But I’d rather you be disliked by some — for being yourself — than be liked by everybody for being a person that doesn’t even exist.”

“Here’s what I know to be true, in your life, you will know success — and you will know failure. They are both equally important to your growth as a human being. And if you have a long season of failure — success is on the way. And if you have a long run of successes — watch your step ’cause chances are you’re gonna stumble at some point. It’s balance. Don’t chase one while trying to run away from the other. Embrace both. With open arms if you can stomach it.”

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