Saturday Night Live alum Will Ferrell returned to his alma mater, the University of Southern California, over the weekend where he served as a guest speaker for the 2017 commencement ceremonies.
Ferrell, who graduated from USC in 1990 with a degree in sports information, also received an honorary doctorate from the university. Ferrell was one of five who received the honor, but the only one to address the graduates.
While Ferrell’s speech was full of humor and self-deprecating jokes, but also featured moments of profound wisdom and insight. The legendary comedian reflected on the years prior to his success admitting there were times that he was afraid of failure, but that fear was trumped by fear of never trying at all.
“Yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid,” he said. But, he added, “My fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of ‘What if? What if I never tried at all?’ ”
He also encouraged the class of 2017 to get beyond themselves and to enjoy the process of figuring out the next step in their lives.
“No matter how cliche it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to get beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence,” Ferrell said. “Trust your gut. Keep throwing darts at the dart board. Don’t listen to the critics, and you will figure it out.”
But the highlight of the almost-half hour speech was at its conclusion when Ferrell sang one of the most beloved Dolly Parton tunes of all time. The song came after the actor encouraged told the graduates that in times of loneliness and doubt, think of their USC Trojan family.
“And imagine me,” he added. “Literally picture my face, singing this song gently into your ear.” Ferrell then broke into a perfectly Will Ferrell-esque rendition of the Dolly Parton-penned tune “I Will Always Love You.”
Watch Dolly Parton’s original version of “I Will Always Love You” below. To hear Will Ferrell’s full commencement address, click here.