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Maya Rudolph Speech: Say Yes

Learn English with Maya Rudolph. Maya Rudolph delivers a keynote speech at Tulane’s 2015 commencement. For a stadium full of graduates at Tulane University in New Orleans, Maya Rudolph presented their departing pep talk. Maya Khabira Rudolph is an American actress, comedian, and singer. She first gained prominence in the 1990s as a member of the alternative rock band The Rentals, then joined the Groundlings improv troupe later in the decade. In this speech, she also quotes: “Hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re going to do tomorrow. But work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn phone once in a while.” – Watch with big English subtitles.

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Maya Rudolph Quote:

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“Work hard and put away your damn phone once in a while.” Maya Rudolph


“Wow. I was not expecting that green envy. You just blew my mind. I am so honored. You can make me cry and I’m supposed to be funny. This is just going to be interesting. Well, well, well, here we are. Get all these beautiful faces and iPhones.

Thank you so much President Fitts, the board of Tulane members and today’s honorary degree recipients.

Good morning graduates, families and friends of graduates — mothers, fathers, brothers, brothers from other mothers, sisters, roommates, “roommates,” grandmas, grandpas, Meemaws and Papaws, Bubbies, Nanas and Boppas, Nany Gigi’s and their special friend Herb, Aunt Ronnies, Uncle Garys and people who met on Tinder this morning.

I thank you for having me here to join you on this special day in this incredible city. I stand here humbled, gracious and completely naked under this robe. It really is a true honor to be with all of you as you begin this new phase of your life – as you embark on this exciting and challenging journey of being sober during the day. It’s going to be interesting.

I applaud you for being here today because it means not only have you earned a college degree, but you have found this arena despite still having a blood alcohol level of 9. I’m looking at you School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. You don’t fool me.

From this day forward the world is filled with endless possibilities. You’re young, you’re in your twenties. This is a great, great day for you. Except for those of you leaving college with any student loan debt. I don’t know what to say to you. I’m sorry. I hope you win the lottery. I don’t know what to tell you about that.

Back in January when the University asked me to make today’s commencement speech I was delighted. So when I started writing it this morning back at the hotel, the first thing I did was go online and look up other commencement speeches. And then I got tired, so I took a nap. I woke up, cried a little bit. Ordered some Huevos Rancheros from Room Service. Then I cried a little bit more. And then I picked myself up by the bootstraps and decided to go back to sleep. And after I hit that snooze button four or five times, I got up again and I did what all of you probably did while you were pushing through finals week. I made sure all the apps on my phone were updated, because that felt like the most important thing. And then I checked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I Periscoped my breakfast, I took 4 quizzes on Buzzfeed and I watched Game of Thrones.

And as I finished writing the speech on the car ride over here this morning, I thought about just how deep my Tulane roots are. I’m proud to say that my father, Richard Rudolph graduated class of 1968. And today my cousin Sabrina Rudolph is graduating with all of you. Sabrina, I’d like to embarrass you by asking you to please stand up and wave at everyone in the Superdome. There she is. I’m so, so proud of you. Now please don’t sully the family name. It’s very, very easy to do that.

Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon, Jay Z, LeBron James, Lucille Ball, C-3PO – these are all graduates of Tulane University according to my Phone. And they all graduated Magna Carta Holy Grail. Now I don’t speak Latin, so I don’t know what that means, but I do speak Pig Latin… so I know how to say “I EAKSPAY IGPAY ATINLAY.” It just means I speak pig Latin.

Now, I did not go to Tulane. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz which is a – Yup! oh, you guys know it – it’s a little hippie school nestled in the beautiful seaside woods of Northern California. So, it’s like you guys have The Green Wave and our school mascot was the Banana Slug. We didn’t have a Football team, but in fact we did have an Ultimate Frisbee Team. That’s different, right. I majored in Not Washing My Feet and Advanced Zig Zag Rolling. So, for a lot of my 5-year college career, I was lost. Like, actually lost. Santa Cruz is mostly woods; you make one wrong turn and you’re gone for days.

But, I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do with my life when I finished college. I wasn’t any clearer about my direction than the day I graduated high school. I wore Birkenstocks and smelled like a patchouli fart.

I’m only willing to admit that now that Birkenstocks are sold at urban Outfitters.

And then during senior year my father asked me what I planned to do after I graduated. And I told him “I want to be on Saturday Night Live.” That’s true.

But until that moment I never wanted to admit that being on SNL was my dream. I never wanted to admit that I was a Thespian. And this was back in the days when people weren’t really talking about being thespians. Before Thespians could marry.

My Dad did what any great teacher would do — he looked at me unfazed and said, “Great. How do you plan to support yourself while you figure that out? And when are you going to wash your feet?” He was realistic, supportive, deflected the responsibility back to me and subtly showed his support for his daughters’ pursuit of a long life in Fart Jokes.

So I did what many of you will probably do — I enrolled in more college and asked my Dad to pay for it.

At the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles, I studied Improvisation. In Improvisation there is one hard and fast rule, and that rule is known as “Yes And”. The term YES AND: to say yes, and not just yes, but to add information. So, in the adding of information, you don’t negate the other persons idea – but you build on it.

So, it’s like this: If I’m in a scene with you President Fitts and you say, “hey, you’re Oprah Winfrey.” And I say, “No I’m not.” Then our scene would be over. But President Fitts if you say, “Hey, you’re Oprah Winfrey” and I say, “Yes I am…and today Class of 2015. Look under your seats because you are all leaving here today with a COLLEGE DIPLOMA!!! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA! AND YOU SIR! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA! WE ARE ALL GETTING DIPLOMAS!”

Almost lost my hat on that bit. So, If I could give my 21-year-old self any advice it would be take as many bikini photos as you can now because your body is smokin’ hot. And let me tell you something, it will not be this bangin’ after childbirth.

But seriously, if I could give my 21-year-old self the advice I’m giving you today and if I had a time machine. Well, if I had a time machine first I would go back in time and invent the iPhone, cause I think I could make a ton of money.

But if I must give any of you advice it would be this: Say Yes. Say Yes, and… and create your own destiny.

So hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re going to do tomorrow. But work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn phone once in a while. And also, be nice to jerks because we still don’t know the criteria for getting into heaven yet.

Now go make your parents proud and figure out how to end global warming. I love you Class of 2015.”[/read]

Maya Rudolph

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