FAIRFIELD — “Wow! What an honor to have Jim Carrey as my opening act!”
It was the best opening line to a valedictory speech, following the best commencement address ever.
Both were delivered Saturday at Maharishi University of Management, where about 1,000 people filled every chair and space in the Golden Dome to see 285 students from 54 countries receive bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees — and to hear what the veteran Hollywood funnyman would have to say.
Everyone, including Carrey, laughed at valedictorian Donna Marie Jones’ opening line. The mathematics major had the unenviable task of following Carrey at the microphone.
Carrey has spent three decades making audiences worldwide laugh at his on-screen antics in such hits as “Dumb and Dumber,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Yes Man” and “Liar, Liar.” He also has a serious side, which won him industry accolades for his performances in “The Truman Show” and “Man on the Moon.”
True to form, his advice to the graduates was serious, sprinkled liberally with humor. He even got a little teary-eyed reminiscing about lessons learned from his father, as well as when the university presented him with an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts Honoris Causa, “in recognition of his significant lifetime achievement.”
An actor, author, artist and activist, he champions such causes as using Transcendental Meditation to treat at-risk youths, abuse victims and people afflicted with PTSD, and founded The Better U Foundation, addressing global food concerns including helping rice farmers earn a better living and produce a better, organic crop.
He’s not just a People magazine pretty face, MUM President Bevan Morris said in his introduction. That comment made Carrey rise and puff out his chest, brushing imaginary crumbs off his golden commencement robe.
He employed his rubber face and physical goofiness just often enough to remind us why we shower him with laughter, since most of his speech was wise beyond the wiseguy ways we see on screen.
“I’m here to plant a seed today — a seed that will inspire you to move forward in life with enthusiastic hearts and a clear sense of wholeness. The question is, will that seed have a chance to take root, or will I be sued by Monsanto,” he said as the crowd roared its approval.
He spoke of doubt and fear, and how to rise above them in order to achieve the kind of life they imagine — or can’t even imagine — as they take this milestone step into their futures.
“I just want you to relax and dream up a good life,” he said.
“It’s about letting the universe know what you want, and working toward it, while letting go of how it comes to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head, and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it. Don’t worry if you miss a cue, because there’s always doors opening. They keep opening. “When I say, ‘Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you,’ I really don’t know if that’s true. I’m just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial so I can deal with them in the most productive way,” he said.
“And why not take a chance on faith, as well. Not religion, but faith. Not hope, but faith. I don’t believe in hope. Hope is the beggar. Hope walks through the fire and faith leaps over it.
“You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world, and as you walk through those doors today, you will only have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”