As you may have heard, actor Kal Penn gave the commencement address at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, just over a week ago. He was also recognized by the school for his talents and abilities with an inaugural University Arts Medal. You can watch his speech online at YouTube and also watch him receive his medal and tap it next to the microphone so the audience can hear just how “legit” it is.
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) May 18, 2014
Part of what made Penn’s address memorable is that he’s a pop culture icon — Kumar from the Harold and Kumar flicks speaking at your graduation is pretty epic, for sure. Just think of the selfie possibilities!
But beyond his star appeal, I actually liked his speech and here’s why.
1. It was just the right length.
I recently attended a commencement ceremony, and I would have gone to it even if it took place at a parking lot on the hottest day ever (it did!) inside a tent which provided shade yet also had a greenhouse-like warming effect (which it also did) plus lengthy, rambling speeches (again, yep) because it was for my younger brother (Congrats, Srinivas!).
Kal Penn’s speech was neither lengthy nor rambling. It was sprinkled with humor throughout and clocked in close to 15 minutes long. He seemed to have an excellent handle on the importance of not getting in the way of the celebrations to follow with family and friends.
2. He kept things simple.
Simple isn’t bad. Simple can be great when it comes to speeches, even when sharing the kind of advice often shared at graduations year after year. Penn offered advice to keep in touch on a regular basis with parents and college friends and to send birthday cards. Then there was his advice about going to weddings.
At some point after the first two or three people get married you’re going to be like “Why am I going to another wedding?” especially if you’re not dating anyone at the time you’ll sort of be really frustrated and be like “Why is everyone getting married? I don’t want to spend any more money that I don’t have on a stupid dress or a tux or another gift.”
Go to their wedding. Someone is inviting you to be present when they celebrate their love for one another. That’s beautiful.
Go to weddings. Even if your grandparents don’t understand how it is that your fraternity brother is about to have a husband, go to weddings. And actually, take your grandpa as your plus one. He’ll love it.
3. He made it funny and memorable.
Penn kept things light and humorous and did something to make his speech memorable for the Class of 2014 and others in the audience. At this formal commencement ceremony he worked the phrase “make it rain” into his speech. In case “make it rain” isn’t part of your personal lexicon, here’s one of the more work-safe definitions courtesy of wikiHow’s step-by-step illustrated guide on “How to Make It Rain Money”:
“Making it rain” is when you hold a stack of bills in one hand and use the fingers of the other hand to peel off bills one at a time in rapid fashion and/or throw out small increments of bills out on strippers, valets, doormen, and prominent cheese steak shops. The bills float in the air, creating the effect of raining money.
In the middle of reminding grads about what really mattered (friends, parents, weddings, etc.), Penn threatened to use his tweeting power to shame anyone making it rain at a club.
You obviously know you have the power to do good things in this world. That’s no groundbreaking, sage commencement advice…and I’m not If I ever see you at a club making it rain on another human being I will shame tweet you to the best of my ability.just referring to just say going out and doing good things like doing well in business or making a million dollars or making it rain at the club. I’m not going to hate on you if you do that. Actually, I will hate on you if you do that. Because that is ridiculous. If I ever see you at a club making it rain on another human being I will shame tweet you to the best of my ability. I now realize that I’ve made it super awkward for you because you have to explain to your parents what it means to make it rain. I’ll be on a plane by then so it’s all on you.
In a final funny touch he concluded his speech with “Remember what matters. Do not make it rain,” leaving over 500 grads free to go out and celebrate and explain the reference to various curious family members.
— Brittany Hayes (@brit_hayes) May 18, 2014