Matt Damon Gets Political in Passionate MIT Commencement Speech
By Antoinette Bueno
Matt Damon wants new graduates to strive to "engage" with the world's problems.
The 45-year-old actor gave the commencement speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Friday, fitting given his well-known Boston roots, and his role in 1997's Good Will Hunting, in which he played a genius janitor at MIT. Damon poked fun at his own qualifications to give the speech -- having dropped out of Harvard University to pursue acting full-time -- and joked he was "fake graduating" for a second time in his life.
Still, Damon -- who brought along his wife, Luciana Barroso, his four daughters, and his parents -- clearly took the honor seriously, and used his time on the stage to urge MIT graduates to pay attention to world issues.
"MIT, you have to go out and do really interesting things, important things, inventive things, because this world has some problems that we need you to drop everything and solve," he said, referring to the blackboards that line MIT's halls, for which students can "drop everything" to write ideas down. "So, go ahead and pick from the world's worst buffet -- economic inequality, how about the refugee crisis, massive global insecurity, climate change, pandemics, institutional racism ... fear-driven brains working overtime here in America."
"And add that to an American political system that's failing," he added, also taking a few jabs at presidential hopeful Donald Trump. "You got congressmen in a two-year election cycle who are incentivized to think short term and simply do not engage with long-term problems, and add to that a media that thrives on scandal and people with their pants down, anything they can get you to tune in so they can hawk you products you don't need, and add to that a banking system that steal's people's money."
Damon acknowledged his bluntness.
"It's alright, I'm not running for office, I can say anything I want," he joked.
The Martian actor later shared advice former president Bill Clinton gave him.
"A natural response is to tune out and turn away, but before you step out into our big troubled world, I want to give some advice that Bill Clinton gave me almost a decade ago," he shared. "What he said was, 'Turn towards the problem you see, you have to engage.'"
"That is what I want to tell you today, is to turn towards the problem that you see and engage with them -- walk right up and look them in the eye, and look yourself in the eye and decide what you want to do about them," he continued.
Damon emphasized that it's OK to fail, recalling countless auditions he and his BFF Ben Affleck would go on, only to be rejected.
"Those experiences became our armor," the Oscar winner explained.
Finally, the Jason Bourne actor stressed that there's no substitute for experiencing other cultures firsthand, and seeing the world's problems for yourself. Specifically, Damon talked about his clean water project -- Water.org -- a non-profit he co-founded to provide safe water and sanitation in the developing world.
"Human beings will take your breath away," Damon shared about his experiences around the world. "They will teach you so much, but you have to engage. There's a lot of trouble out there, MIT, but there's a lot of beauty too, and I hope you see both."
"I was scared to death because I wanted to get it right for the students who have worked for years to be there," Seacrest told ET exclusively. "I was up all night trying to figure out what to say to them. We finally came up with something I put on paper and hopefully they appreciated it. It was an honor to do that. I never did that before. Fifty thousand people in the stadium and I was really happy to be there."