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Natalie Portman isn’t just one of the straight-up smartest people in Hollywood; she’s also wise, as she showed during her speech yesterday (May 27) at Harvard University.
Portman went back to her alma mater (yes, she’s a Harvard alum) to bestow some parting words upon the Class of 2015, in a speech that was as much about her own life as it was about offering guidance to the new grads. Below, we round up the 19 pearliest pearls of wisdom and most interesting facts from the Oscar-winner’s remarks.
1. All the blockbuster movies and Academy Awards in the world can’t compare to the excitement of speaking at your alma mater.
In her opening, Portman called speaking at Harvard’s graduation “genuinely one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been asked to do.”
2. If she wasn’t funny, it was Wikileaks fault.
After her email response to the speaking invitation (“I’m going to need some funny ghostwriters. Any ideas?”) was leaked as part of the Sony hack, she decided to just write the whole thing herself.
3. Natalie’s memories of her own graduation may be a little… fuzzy.
According to the actress, the general condition of her class on the morning they received their diplomas was “hung over and freshly high.”
4. She suffers from impostor syndrome, still.
“I’m still insecure about my own worthiness,” Portman said, telling the audience that at the time she was admitted to Harvard, she “felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, that I would have to prove I wasn’t some dumb actress.”
5. And if you suffer from impostor syndrome? Don’t. Seriously.
“You are here for a reason,” she said.
6. Not having any clue what you’re doing can be a blessing in disguise.
“You can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path, one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be.”
7. Baby Portman-Millepied loves the little plastic prizes you win at boardwalk arcades.
Although Portman’s story about her son was part of a larger narrative about the joy of work for the sake of work versus reward, our takeaway is that the actress’s home is probably just as overrun with cheap kiddie toys as everyone else who has children under the age of 10.
8. Graduation speaking is an exercise in cognitive dissonance.
Portman didn’t hesitate to point out how counterintuitive it is that graduations always involve “people who achieve a lot telling you that the fruits of achievement are not always to be trusted.”
9. She was always a smartypants.
Did you know that Natalie was voted “most likely to be a contestant on jeopardy” in her senior yearbook? It’s true!
10. She took neurobiology and advanced Hebrew in her first year at college, but not for the right reasons.
“I realized that seriousness for seriousness’s sake was its own kind of trophy,” the actress said, adding that she still thanks the gods of grade inflation for her passing grades in those classes.
11. Natalie went to college thinking she’d have an academic career, but by the time she was done, it had only reaffirmed her love of acting.
“I admitted to myself that I couldn’t wait to go back and make more films. I wanted to tell stories. I had found, or perhaps reclaimed, my reason.”
12. She knows what it’s like when your birth control makes you literally crazy.
Portman’s college experience included some rough moments, including a battle with a birth control pill that has since been discontinued for causing serious depression as a side effect.
13. You can learn great life lessons in teeny-tiny sushi restaurants.
Speaking about a recent trip to Tokyo and a memorable meal there, Portman said, “It’s not about quantity; it’s about taking pleasure in the perfection and beauty of the particular.”
14. She still remembers the mean things a New York Times reporter said about her first film.
“Ms. Portman poses better than she acts” was the diss that Natalie recalled word-for-word during her speech. (Geez, New York Times. She was 12! Harsh, much?)
15. She chooses her roles based solely on what kind of experience she thinks she’ll have making the movie.
When she was making stoner comedy “Your Highness,” Portman said, she “laughed for three months straight.”
16. Inexperience can be as good as courage.
“I didn’t recognize risks as risks,” she said of the gutsy career moves she made out of ignorance rather than bravery. “Make use of the fact that you don’t doubt yourself too much right now.”
17. And you can write any story you want on a blank slate.
“Your inexperience can lead you down a path where you [either] confirm to someone else’s values, or where you make something wholly yours,” Portman said.
18. Making time to do good works is worth it.
“It’s a cliche because it’s true: that helping others ends up helping you more than anyone.”
19. And finally, the friends you make in college are ones you should hang onto.
“Grab the good people around you,” Portman said. “Don’t let them go.”
Watch the speech in its entirety below:
#class of 2015#graduation#harvard#Natalie Portman