“I’m 90% sure I’m here because I have a song called ’22,'” Taylor Swift quipped as she delivered the commencement address for New York University’s class of 2022 at a graduation ceremony on Wednesday. The pop superstar was presented with an honorary doctorate before delivering a playful and thoughtful speech that lasted… no, not 22, but just over 23 minutes.
“The last time I was in a stadium this size, I was dancing in heels and wearing a glittery leotard,” Swift noted. “This outfit is much more comfortable.”
Swift didn’t allude to many of her hits during the address, but gave in to the inevitable as she told out-of-town friends and relatives of the graduates, “Now let me tell you: welcome to New York — it’s been waiting for you.”
She continued, “I want to thank NYU for technically, at least on paper, making me a doctor. Not the kind of doctor you’d want in an emergency, unless your emergency” is how to find a hook accompanied by “an intensely cathartic bridge section. Or if your emergency was that you needed someone who could name 100+ cat breeds in a minute.”
Swift congratulated the graduates on pulling through in unusual circumstances, as “in normal times everyone in college is stressed about passing tests, but on top of that” today’s students need to think about passing weekly COVID tests.
Contrasting the history of the graduates’ formal education, the singer-songwriter noted that she dropped out of formal schooling after the 10th grade. By this point, the rest of her high school consisted of her mother homeschooling her while they sat on the floors of airports as Swift went on a radio tour. Those week-long visits to country radio stations, she said, consisted of “a rental car, motels, and my mom and I pretending to fight getting in so nobody wanted the space between us on the Southwest.”
Moving on to what she called “unsolicited advice,” Swift urged graduates to “learn to live alongside the creeps. No matter how hard you try not to flinch, you will look back at your life and cringe in retrospect. Cringe: inevitable throughout life. Even the term cringe might one day qualify as cringe. She promised that even some of the things students do or wear today are things they will find “disgusting and hilarious.” For example, I went through a period where I dressed like a ’90s housewife for the whole of 2012.”
On a more serious level, she said, “I’m a big advocate of not hiding your enthusiasm for things. It seems to me that in our culture of carefree ambivalence there is a false stigma of zeal. … Never be ashamed to try. Effortlessness is a myth. The people who wanted it the least were the people I wanted to date and be friends with in high school. The people who want it the most are the people I am now hiring to work for my company.”
Swift told the graduates that they are all writers to some degree, as she is. “I’ve made and released 11 albums, going from country to pop to alternative to folk. That might sound like very singer-songwriter-centric attention.” But she said, “You write differently in your Instagram Stories than you do in your thesis… We’re all literary chameleons, and I find that fascinating.”
The singer spoke at length about the backlash she has received since she was 15 years old. “Being the youngest person in every room for over a decade meant I was constantly warned… Every interview I conducted contained barbs of one day getting out of hand… I became a young adult while growing up with fed the message that if I didn’t make mistakes, all of America’s children would grow up to be perfect angels… It was all about the idea that mistakes equal failure and ultimately the chance for a happy, worthwhile life. This is not my experience. My experience is that my mistakes have led to the best things in my life. Getting back up, dusting off, and seeing who else wants to hang out with you… that’s a gift.”
Alluding to the time when much of America seemed to be taking sides in what has been seen as a credibility war between her and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, she admitted, “Being fired on the internet and almost losing my career was there I feel excellent knowledge of the different types of wine.”
“I know the pressure of living your life through the lens of perfectionism. And I know I’m talking to perfectionists because you’re here today, graduating from NYU,” she said. “In your life you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong person, underreact, hurt people who don’t deserve it, think too much, not think at all…. hitting rock bottom and finally addressing the pain you caused… rinse, repeat… I’m not going to lie. These mistakes will cause you to lose things.
“The scary news is you’re on your own now, but the cool news is you’re on your own now,” she said.
“As long as we’re lucky enough to breathe, we’re going to breathe deeply, inhale deeply, and exhale. And I’m a doctor now, so I know how breathing works.”
Closing, Swift said, recalling that hit a few years ago, “Let’s keep dancing like we’re the class of 22.”
Swift received her Doctor of Fine Arts honors from Jason King, Chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, part of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Earlier in the morning, Swift posted a short montage on Instagram and TikTok showing her traveling around New York before and after putting on her hat and gown and her dad snapping snaps of her in her graduation gear.
Three graduating classes are honored on this day. Swift will be part of what has been dubbed a “traditional” ceremony for the current senior year on the morning of May 18. Separately, the university will hold a “double-headed” kickoff in the evening for the classes of 2020 and 2021, who were unable to perform an earlier traditional ceremony due to the pandemic.
At the evening event, disability rights activist Judith Heumann will address the graduates at Yankee Stadium. Heumann starred in the film Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, which was nominated for Best Documentary at last year’s Oscars. She is the author of the 2020 book Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist and produces the podcast The Heumann Perspective, which features members of the disability community. Other honorees include Lonnie Bunch III, Susan Hockfield, Jill Lepore and Félix Matos Rodríguez.
https://variety.com/2022/music/news/taylor-swift-nyu-speech-commencement-yankee-stadium-graduation-doctorate-1235270824/ Taylor Swift delivers NYU commencement address at Yankee Stadium