The Academy Award-winning actor, 50, appeared on Friday's "Good Morning America" to deliver a heartfelt commencement speech to the graduates of the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management -- as well as the class of 2020 in general -- and he didn't disappoint.
Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, high school and college seniors all across the country are graduating without the usual pomp-and-circumstance ceremony. They're missing out on all of the activities associated with this special moment.
Ahead of his powerful words, McConaughey spoke about the "unified purpose" that has resulted from our current crisis and how we as a nation shouldn’t fall victim to a "false divide” between us. This is what led him to create a recent PSA reminding everyone, "It’s about us.”
McConaughey also revealed the best advice he got in school. It came about when a friend came up to him and complimented his looks. He brushed it off and that’s when the friend spoke up.
"And she reached out and I remember her grabbing my arm and going, ‘Hey, just say thank you if someone gives you a compliment … look them in the eye,’” he recalled. "I'll never forget that.”
Read McConaughey’s full speech below:
So, here we go. We are talking to you, the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management. To you I say congratulations. Number one: You just graduated. You got no prom. You got no real ceremony.
But don't feel bad. At least you're originals. You are the one and onlys. You're going to have a whole lot of fun for the rest of your life knowing that. Sing it from the rooftops: We are the class of 2020. We got a virtual graduation. We got a drive-by and we got McConaughey to do our commencement. Put it on T-shirts, make a rap song out of it. Wear it as a badge of honor because it is yours, and yours only, forever.
I want to congratulate you on your chosen professions as emergency management trackers. We all have a role to play in making this world a better place and you chose to do something with real and necessary purpose. People all over the world are looking for purpose every single day and you got one. Your vocation is a necessity, it's not a luxury. It's a brave job that takes true courage and commitment.
Now, some of you are going to college and many of you are going straight to the front line. You'll be entering the workforce during a crisis, this one we're in right now, and you will have no internships, no emergency ride-alongs, no auditions, no warm-ups. No G League before the NBA, no friendly matches with no score to keep. Yeah. You're going to be in the ring on the starting five on day one, live. Now, I know that's not how you planned it, but it is how it turned out and how it is. So I say to you: Stay focused in your tunnel vision and embrace the unique position that you're in. And believe and know that you can do it.
Support your 2020 graduate brothers and sisters, become a fraternity. You know, a special class like no other. Take pride in your position and embrace the challenge. You're giving back. You're adding value to your community. You're striving to be your best self so I want to urge you to take advantage of this opportunity together.
Now, as far as general life, some things that I’ve heard that have helped me along the way, I’m going to share with you here. Act today in ways that you will respect tomorrow. From how you treat yourself to how you treat others in real life and online. And what I mean by online, just remember those comments you leave online, those thumbs-up or thumbs-down, they will outlive you. They are part of your resume of who you are.
Number two: Respect yourselves and others. Inspire yourselves and others and laugh as much as possible and have as much fun as you can when you can.
Number three: Life's hard, even without a damn pandemic. You realize that now and you're going to enjoy your life a whole lot more later.
Number four: Don't be afraid to fail. Learn who you are, take risks to be that person, then persist and pursue to get what you want.
Number five: Let your reach exceed your grasp. If you do that, what you end up getting is going to be better than what you could have grabbed.
Number six: You're not going to get straight As in life. If you did, life would be pretty doggone boring because how do we ever know what was right if we didn’t screw up.
Number seven: Take care of yourselves, family and loved ones. Forgive yourselves, family and loved ones. Bet on yourself, hold yourself to task. Make a plan when you can and own it.
So that I say thank you, Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management, New York, New York, class of 2020. Make it count and, above all, just keep living. Not only is that what we're all here to do, that's what you and your job allow us to do. Thank you. It is about us.