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Let’s just say what everyone is thinking: “These graduates are SO lucky!!” OK, we’ve got that out of our system. Dame Helen Mirren, who we can look for in 2018’s Winchester, swung by Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, to share some wise words with the 2017 graduating class.

Again, SO lucky (sorry, apparently not out of system). These 20-somethings are being sent out into the world by one of the greats with a commencement speech one does not forget.

And, what did Mirren bring to the table podium? She greets the members of the audience, trying to include everyone, kicking off with “All the graduates, faculty, parents, friends,” and even “live-in lovers,” which definitely gave us a chuckle. That last mention definitely sets the tone for the audience, and the rest of us, as what to expect.

We don’t want to spoil it for you, but with the speech being about 24 minutes long (4:36-28:46), here are Helen Mirren’s Five Top Rules for a Happy Life pulled out of the full speech (beginning at 14:57):

1. Don’t be in a rush to get married.
Which everyone applauds her for! She goes on to say, “You know, I married my husband Taylor (Hackford) a lot later in my life and it’s worked out great.” She also advised the crowd to “Always give your partner the freedom and support to achieve their ambitions.”

2. Treat people just like people. 
The above tip sounds easy enough. But, she expands on what she means by this, relaying a story about being in the back of a car with her actress friend. Her friend offered the driver a cigarette. She said, “She didn’t treat him like a driver-person. But, a person-person.” She points out that it was the dinosaur days when people smoked in enclosed spaces. But, we get the point.

2b. She begins to move on to the next point, but then pauses, saying she’d like to add on to #2, with, “No matter what sex you are, be a feminist.” She lived like a feminist her entire life, but didn’t define herself as one until recently. Her reasoning behind the addendum to #2 is extremely thought out, but it’s best coming from her, which you can listen to, starting at 16:29.

3. Ignore anyone who judges the way you look.
Especially if it’s an anonymous “creep” lurking on the internet, according to Mirren. She seeks out those who might be the trolls, saying, “And if you are that person lurking on the internet… stop it. Just stop it. Go outside. Do something.”

4. Don’t be afraid of fear.
These words bring her back to school days and her head mistress, Dame Mother Mary Mildred, which she still carries with her today. She interpreted the advice to mean, “Don’t let fear rule you.” She agrees that sometimes there are situations that it’s understandable to be afraid, but for the moments when challenged by self-doubt, she says, “Look fear straight away. In its ugly face. And barge forward. And when you get past it… turn around… and give it a good swift kick in the a**.” 

5. Don’t overcomplicate things.
Mirren thinks every day can be simplified by keeping these practical notes in mind (here are just some of them): don’t put hot cups on waxed wooden surfaces, do say thank you when it’s merited, don’t lose your sense of humor, do open your heart to love, don’t procrastinate (which she mentions several times), don’t confuse sex with love, don’t dive into water if you don’t know how deep the water is… she would have had more Dos and Don’ts… but she waited until the last minute (see “don’t procrastinate” above).

We highly suggest watching the speech in its entirety, which you can find below, with Mirren being very “on.” She is so funny and insightful and while the above is five-ish bulleted points, there is a lot to take away from the ideas she shares:

These words may be directed at new graduates; but we can all embrace the positivity.

We knew we were onto something with this 10 Reasons We Love Dame Helen Mirren post.

Did you watch the entire speech — what was your favorite bit?

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Filed Under: Dame Helen Mirren, Speech
By Brigid Brown