On Sunday, June 3rd, the graduating seniors at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School got a surprise commencement speaker. A mere few months after the students experienced a school shooting that took 17 innocent lives, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon took the graduation stage and thanked them for their courage.
Fallon mixed his signature humor with genuine love and gratitude, and also gave the class of 2018 some heartfelt and useful advice. He told them to be kind, try new things, and most importantly, “don’t ever get off your parents’ wireless plan.”
After watching the students move forward from unimaginable tragedy and form a student-led movement against gun violence, Fallon spoke for all of us when he thanked the graduating class for showing us all that having hope and determination is all one needs to change the world.
You can watch Fallon’s full commencement speech in the video below.
Or read it in full below.
“Thank you very much. Thank you Principal Thompson, the faculty and staff, parents and friends, and most of all, thank you to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Class of 2018. It’s an honor to be here today.
When you think of commencement speakers you think of people who are inspirational, people who are eloquent, people who change the world. When you think of high school students you think of people who are a little immature, slightly awkward, still learning to be an adult. Welcome to opposite day.
Today you’re graduating from high school. You should feel incredibly proud of yourselves. That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels — or your yannys. Some of you will grow up to hear Yanny. Some of you will grow up to hear Laurel. But the most important thing to know is that neither of these things will matter by the end of the summer.
Here’s what will matter: you, the Class of 2018, will have graduated and you won’t be classmates anymore. You’ll be adults who Facebook search each other at two in the morning for the next ten years. But more important than that, you’ll be out in the real world. So, before you go I want to share a few thoughts with you — not advice necessarily — just a few things I’ve learned that helped me along the way.
The first thing is this: When something feels hard, remember that it gets better. Choose to move forward. Don’t let anything stop you. I met many of you earlier this year at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. and it was an amazing day. Thank you for your courage and your bravery and for giving amazing speeches that I could never possibly live up to.
My wife and I brought our two little girls because we wanted them to see what hope and light looks like, and as we were standing there watching you guys in awe, I was lucky enough to stand with a lot of your teachers. And let me tell you something, your teachers are so proud of you. Really. They were like, I taught him! I taught her! I taught them history! And now, you’re making history. It’s pretty cool. And that’s just a few of you I was able to meet. I can only imagine what the rest of this class is accomplishing and will be able to accomplish. And your teachers — everyone — they’re all so proud of you.
My teachers weren’t really proud of me like that. I wasn’t really the best student. I wouldn’t say I was dumb, I just had “other strengths.” I didn’t always feel like studying so I had to go to summer school. And my mom and dad were like, look at you Mr. Smart Guy. Now you have to go to summer school. How’s that make you feel? Huh? You’ve ruined your whole summer now. It made me feel awful and I went to my bed and I cried.
But here’s the thing — I got up one morning and went to summer school and I met 15 versions of myself. Everyone was funny and slightly dumb — I loved it. I loved summer school. It was fantastic. I met my people!
My point is every bad experience can have something good that comes out. Sometimes things that seem like setbacks, can take our lives in a totally new direction that can change us in ways we don’t expect. They make us better and stronger. You guys have already proved that to everyone. You took something horrific and instead of letting it stop you, you started a movement, not just here in Florida, not just in America, but throughout the whole world. The whole world has heard your voice and that was you making a choice. That was you choosing to take something awful and using it to create change. That was you choosing hope over fear.
Another thing I want to say is keep making good choices. I’m not saying that I think you need to learn it, I’m saying it because you’ve already taught it to all of us. I can’t promise you that life will be easy, but if you make good choices and keep moving forward, I can promise you that it will get better in ways we haven’t even thought yet.
We have no idea what the future holds and that’s okay. Don’t get too hung up on that. My advice to you is don’t think about what you want to do, think about why you want to do it and the rest will figure itself out. I love what I do. I get to tell jokes and make people laugh and it’s awesome. People often ask me, what’s the best part of your job? I say, I get to make people happy. I’ll give you an example. About six or seven months ago, I ran into this girl on the street and she came up to me and said, I just want to let you know that I was going through a tough time, I was very depressed, and you got me through my depression. I watched all your clips on YouTube and I just want to thank you so much for getting me through such a tough time. We talked for about twenty minutes and then she goes, Can I get a selfie? I go, Yeah, of course. We take a selfie and she goes, Can we get one more for Snapchat? And I go, Yeah, of course, so we take another one. Then I say goodbye to her and as she’s leaving she said out loud, Oh my god I just met Jimmy Kimmel! The point is, I love my job and I know I’d clearly make her laugh if she knew who I was.
A question people ask me a lot is, what would you tell your younger self? And there’s so many things that I’d say. But, the first would be lay off the carbs. The second I would say is listen. Listen to everyone around you. Hear other voices. There are so many different voices in the world and we’re all different voices, different flavors, different colors, but we’re all in the same rainbow. And we need red just as much as we need yellow, and purple, and orange, and blue and green, and burgundy. There’s good in everyone so find what’s good in people. If we listen to each other we can find it.
Another thing I’d tell my younger self is work hard for everything. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going — day by day, moment by moment. You always have the chance to be building something, working on something, pushing something up the hill, practicing everyday, rain or shine, in the mood or not. It’s not easy but you have to keep trying and keep failing and having goals and pushing them ahead every day.
I’d also say take good care of yourself. Check in with yourself everyday. Put your phone down and be silent for a moment or two. And be kind, and think ahead, and have courage. Try new things. Remember the past but don’t stay there. Honor your fellow humans. Keep laughing. Celebrate anything you can as often as you can because it’s fun. Write letters and send them with a stamp in the mailbox. Try that. Say hello to people. Smile more often. Be kind to people who wait on your table, bag your groceries, move your furniture. And when you dance, dance from the inside.
If I could give you one last piece of advice, it would be this: don’t ever get off your parents’ wireless plan. Ride that train as long as possible. You don’t know how expensive data is.
“On our show we write out thank you notes every Friday — for the most part they’re funnier, or at least they try to be. But today, I want to say a real thank you. I want to thank you guys personally for showing us what it looks like to have integrity and courage and bravery in the face of terrible tragedy. Thank you for showing me and the whole world that there is hope.
Most commencement speakers, they’ll get up here and talk in future-tense — you will succeed, you will make us proud, you will change the world. Most commencement speakers, they say, “you are the future.” But I’m not going to say that because you’re not the future. You’re the present. You are succeeding, you are making us proud, you are changing the world. So keep changing the world and keep making us proud.
Thank you so much for having me and congratulations to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Class of 2018.”
Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for making the Marjory Stoneman Douglas 2018 Commencement Speech so special…these teens more than deserve it. And so many congrats to the Class of 2018. We can’t wait to see the great things you will continue to do in this world.