Live with intention and don’t let fear keep you from being the person you want to be, Larry Wilmore told the Class of 2023 on Wednesday.
“Be fearless in your lives,” the Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian urged graduates during his Class Day address in Tercentenary Theatre. “I want you to do the things you never imagined you could do. I want you to be the people you always knew you should be. I want you to create the world that we all wish it could be. And I want you to have all the happiness you are absolutely intended to have.
“Fear is usually the culprit that prevents us from doing the things in life that we are meant to do but are afraid [to do] for whatever reason,” he added. Though it can come from anywhere, “the most paralyzing type of fear always starts inside of us.”
Wilmore, best known for his wry observations on race, politics, and society, advised seniors to put time and intention into their lives. “Focus your life on what your actions should be and where you need to show up,” he said. “And no matter what happens, keep showing up. Show up in your own life the way your parents showed up for you.”
Wilmore first gained notice on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” as its “Senior Black Correspondent” from 2006 to 2014, followed by “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” which ran for two seasons in 2015-2016. He currently hosts a weekly podcast, “Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air.” Behind the camera, Wilmore has made a significant impact as a creator, producer, and writer on some of the most critically acclaimed shows of the last two decades, including the ABC series “Black-ish” and its college-themed spinoff, “Grown-ish,” which stars Yara Shahidi ’22.
Long before his TV success, Wilmore, like many college students, went through a “what am I going to do with my life” crisis. Though he wanted to go into show business — “the dream” — he had lots of family, friends, and others advising him to “be practical.” Heeding their advice, and needing money, Wilmore took a summer job selling books door-to-door in Rhode Island and Fall River. It wasn’t long before he realized he wasn’t cut out for sales and that many of the people he met seemed unhappy with their lives, he said.