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Steven Spielberg's Advice To Harvard Grads: Be A Movie Hero

"My job is to create a world that lasts two hours. Yours is to create a world that lasts forever."
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks during Harvard University commencement exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks during Harvard University commencement exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg's speech to the Harvard class of 2016 was "unapologetically sentimental," but not entirely rosy. "A hero needs a villain to vanquish, and you're all in luck. This world is full of monsters," he said. "There's racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, political hatred and religious hatred."

Though Spielberg did not directly mention Donald Trump in his commencement speech -- which Elizabeth Warren did at Suffolk University -- he joked, "We are a nation of immigrants ... at least for now."

Spielberg dropped out of college his sophomore year in order to take a job at Universal Studios. He promised his parents he would go back to school if he didn't succeed as a filmmaker. ("It went all right," he joked.) Spielberg knew exactly what he wanted to pursue, but he acknowledged that many grads in the audience did not. “Maybe you’re sitting there, trying to figure out how to tell your parents you want to be a doctor and not a comedy writer,” Spielberg said. “What you choose to do next is your character-defining moment.”

"My job is to create a world that lasts two hours," he said at one point in the speech. "Your job is to create a world that lasts forever. You are the future innovators, motivators, leaders, and caretakers."

The creator of "Jaws," "Indiana Jones," "Lincoln," and more said that though his movies hinge on a single "character-defining moment," reality is more complicated. “In real life, you get them every day," Spielberg said. "Life is one long string of them.” 

Spielberg ended his speech by wishing the graduates a “Hollywood-style happy ending." (That's a Hollywood-style happy ending to a commencement speech.) “I hope that it’s filled with justice and peace,” he said. “I hope you outrun the T-rex, catch the criminal, and, for your parents sake, maybe every now and then, just like E.T., go home.”

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