Colbert's commencement sermon

June 24, 2011

Stephen Colbert's commencement speech at Northwestern
wasn't as funny as Conan O'Brien's at Dartmouth, but the
inevitable "now I'm serious kids, please keep listening" section was far
better--it was pretty much a hard-hitting sermon. Stressing that we were
hearing from Colbert the real-life person and not Colbert the character, the former offered
something the latter never would:

your dream is right now, if you don't achieve it, you haven't failed, and
you're not some loser. But just as importantly--and this is the part I may not
get right and you may not listen to--if you do get your dream, you are not a

After I
graduated from here, I moved down to Chicago and did improv. Now there are very
few rules to improvisation, but one of the things I was taught early on is that
you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if
they are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention
to them and serve them . . . . You cannot "win" improv.

life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next, and you
are mostly just making things up as you go along. And like improv, you cannot
win your life.

 [. . . .]

In my
experience, you will truly serve only what you love, because, as the prophet
says, service is love made visible.

If you
love friends, you will serve your friends.

If you
love community, you will serve your community.

If you
love money, you will serve your money.

And if
you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only

So no
more winning. Instead, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find
those who love and serve you in return.

the whole thing: