It’s commencement-speech season again, when videos trickle online from all around the country as schools vie for the publicity of hosting a notable speaker. Yesterday it was Anders Holm from Workaholics speaking at UW-Madison, and today Wesleyan University posted the official video of its speaker, Joss Whedon. The Avengers director spoke at his alma mater (where he was briefly a classmate of one Michael Benjamin Bay), and delivered some heartwarmingly funny realism. He began with a short anecdote about his own commencement speaker in 1987, Bill Cosby, who told them they were never going to change the world, and that they shouldn't try.
Piggybacking on that sobering piece of advice, Whedon begins his remarks with the fact that every single, little one of the new graduates will eventually die, albeit with a sunny disposition. But unlike Cosby, he pulls back from that edge to encourage graduates to embrace the part of them that is self-critical. “To accept duality is to earn identity. Identity…is a process that you must be active in.” His advice basically boils down to accepting that everyone has multiple parts of their consciousness, and to use that acceptance to challenge opinions and ideals so that they can be defended against others. It’s a memorable speech, both for Whedon’s words and his constant battle against the wind.