Advice

J.K. Simmons to Grads: ‘Live in the Moment’

May 18, 2016

Watch the actor's commencement speech at University of Montana

J.K. Simmons recently admitted that he doesn’t remember who spoke at his graduation ceremony from the University of Montana in 1978. So when returning to the campus to address the Class of 2016, he said, “I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’m going to change everyone’s lives here today or that years from now you will even remember who spoke here today. Now believe me, for an actor, it’s hard to put aside your ego like that.”

He also confessed to being nervous about being asked to speak at his alma mater. “It may seem odd to some of you that I would be intimidated at this prospect since I’m used to being in front of people, sometimes millions of people, on screen,” he said. “I mean, that is what I do for a living. But there are some big differences between what I do on a daily basis and being here today at a commencement ceremony. Here, I’m just me. I’m not pretending to be somebody else, and I’m speaking my words, not words that were written for me.”

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Simmons urged graduates to be more present in their daily lives. “Do your best to adhere to the principle expressed in these three words: Be here now,” he said. “It’s something that I continue to tell myself: To appreciate the moment, to live life as it is happening, not dwell on the past, not be too anxious about the future, but to do my best to be here now.” This sentiment includes “not staring at your damn smartphone all the time.”

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More tidbits of advice from Simmons were to: “Take care of yourself. Eat your vegetables. Get some exercise. Floss. Use your turn signal—I know that has nothing to do with taking care of yourself, it’s just a pet peeve of mine.” He also referenced his 2015 Oscars acceptance speech: “You may have heard me say this before: If you’re lucky enough to have both parents alive on this planet, call them.”

Watch the full speech above.

Read more 2016 commencement speeches:

 

Anne-Marie Slaughter: ‘Care Is as Important as Career’

Barack Obama: ‘Passion Is Vital, But You’ve Got to Have a Strategy’

Condoleezza Rice to Grads: ‘Don’t Let Anyone Else Define Your Passion’

Cory Booker to Grads: ‘Tell Your Truth’

Darren Walker to Grads: ‘Stand For Something’

Earl Lewis: ‘Never Confuse The Attainement of an Education with What It Means to Be Educated’

Eboo Patel to Wake Forest Grads: ‘The Only Shame Is in Stagnation’

Hoda Kotb: ‘You’re the Sum Total of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With’

Jane Goodall to Grads: ‘Remember to Live to Your True Human Potential’

Jill Bolte Taylor: ‘We Have the Power to Choose Who We Want to Be’

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Grads: ‘Your Stories Are Essential’

Madeleine Albright: ‘Everyone Must Participate in Solving Shared Problems’

Michael Bloomberg: ‘An Open Mind Is the Most Valuable Asset You Can Possess’

Michelle Obama to Grads: ‘Excellence Is the Most Powerful Answer You Can Give’

Obama to Grads: Building Walls Is ‘A Betrayal of Who We Are’

Russell Wilson: ‘Go Make It Happen’

Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Finding Gratitude and Appreciation Is Key to Resilience’

Vivek Murthy: ‘Live a Connected Life’

William Foege to Grads: ‘Every Day We Edit Our Obituaries’