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Whedon ’87 Delivers 181st Commencement Address

Joss Whedon '87 delivered the Wesleyan Commencement Address on May 26:

Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the Wesleyan Commencement Address.

Award-winning writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the Commencement Address during the 181st Commencement Ceremony. Watch a video of his address below, or read the text of this speech.

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“Commencement address—it’s going well, it’s going well. Thank you, Jeanine, for…making me do this.

This is going to be great. This is going to be a good one. It’s gonna go really well.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and… no. I’m not that lazy.

I actually sat through many graduations. When I was siting where you guys were sitting, the speaker was Bill Cosby—funny man Bill Cosby, he was very funny and he was very brief, and I thanked him for that. He gave us a message that I really took with me, that a lot of us never forgot, about changing the world. He said, “you’re not going to change the world, so don’t try.”

That was it. He didn’t buy that back at all. And then he complained about buying his daughter a car and we left. I remember thinking, “I think I can do better. I think I can be a little more inspiring than that.”

And so, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.

This is a good commencement speech because I’m figuring it’s only going to go up from here. It can only get better, so this is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.

Wesleyan Announces Commencement Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients

Wesleyan will honor three extraordinary alumni at the University’s 181st Commencement on May 26. Joss Whedon ’87, film and television director, writer and producer, will deliver the commencement address. Honorary degrees also will be presented to environmental and social justice leader Majora Carter ’88 and Jim Dresser ’63, whose many years of service to Wesleyan include having chaired the Board of Trustees.

Joss Whedon ’87

Joss Whedon ’87 (photo by Dax Henry and Anais Wade for The New York Times)

Joss Whedon ’87 is an award-winning writer, director and producer. He is the force behind such popular television shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the 2012 superhero blockbuster film, The Avengers.

The son and grandson of successful television writers, Whedon was raised in New York and studied film at Wesleyan. After graduating, he landed his first TV writing job on the show Roseanne. He developed a script for the 1992 film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which in 1996 he adapted as the cult hit television show by the same name. Buffy ran for seven seasons; Whedon was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series in 2000. The spin-off from Buffy, titled Angel, ran for five seasons. He subsequently created the space-western TV show, Firefly, and a film of the same premise, Serenity, which won a 2006 Hugo Award.

Whedon also wrote and co-wrote on numerous films, including Toy Story (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award). In 2008, he produced a short web-exclusive musical comedy, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which won an Emmy Award and a Hugo Award, among other honors.

In April 2012, The Avengers, a live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero team, directed and co-written by Whedon, had the biggest opening weekend of all time, and became the third highest-grossing film ever. He is currently writing and will direct the sequel. Most recently Whedon directed a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

In 2009, Whedon delivered the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns keynote address at Wesleyan. In 2010, he was honored by the Producers Guild of America with its Vanguard Award, which recognizes achievements in new media and technology.