“What you learn here at AFI it is better to do it than to say it. Just gathering here today says it. We are here to celebrate you graduates as the hope we await.”
The first words of encouragement from many throughout the commencement expressed to 2016 AFI Conservatory graduates as they welcomed family and friends to the celebration of their achievements.
“Together you will walk out of here an army of artists with stories to tell: stories that will heal; stories that will inspire; and stories that will plant the seeds of empathy. Reminding the world of our common heartbeat.”
Such poignant words planted like potent seeds into this blossoming garden of education. Even more importantly, there were great planters present, who have cultivated paths before planting seeds so those following will glean fruits of their labor.
“When your degree says AFI, it says, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Bettye Davis, Sydney Portier. It says, Rita Moreno. It says, Quentin Tarantino.”
The latter [Moreno and Tarantino] are this year recipients of honorary degrees. Presenting Moreno with her doctorate of fine arts degree was Eva Longoria, a trustee of AFI.
“You are an aspiring icon, whose pioneering performances have made you exceptional for what success looks like on stage and screen. You are the embodiment of the American dream.” Longoria mused to an audience-packed theater before scenes of Moreno dancing and singing in West Side Story came upon the movie screen at the TCL Chinese Theater.
“I am so happy and honored to be here receiving a doctorate. Wow, a doctorate for a girl whom never graduated from school! All I can figure is the powers that be are granting me credit for 70 years of not giving up.” Moreno explained the trick to her success. Since her dejected days of those ‘dusky maiden’ roles, she has never given up on her dreams.
“In order to have it all, then you must love it all. “(Moreno)
Moreno did receive it all as she is one of few to have the four major entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.
Following Moreno’s recognition was American film critic and professor, Elvis Mitchell, who presented Quentin Tarantino with his honorary degree.
“You are the boldest and baddest voice in American film.” Mitchell asserted Tarantino.
Tarantino had migrated to southern California from Knoxville, TN, and like Moreno had experienced similar discouraging moments during his early career days.
“This must be the year for giving doctorates to us whom never finished school.” Tarantino jokingly said as he approaches the podium to receive his degree.
“I actually did try to enroll in AFI.” He [Tarantino] told the audience while he laughed along with them. “I even tried to get a job at Grauman’s Chinese theater.” After Tarantino’s shared his testimony, he challenged the graduates and to next year graduates to do their best.
“I think your best is to be a part of the conversation. Be a part of the artistic conversation. Contribute to the conversation of art, on film, on television, on multimedia, on race, on culture, on America, on the world, and on politics.” (Tarantino)
A network of AFI alums such as Moreno and Tarantino would be a great reason to value your AFI education. It is the reassuring words of class representative, Trevor David Smith, that provide a real value of education.
“It [value of education] is not a material payoff. It is the chance you [graduate] have to find your team, find your story, and learn to work hard.”