By Krystal Knapp
PRINCETON BOROUGH – Sporting a Princeton University class of 1987 jacket, actress Brooke Shields told university graduates yesterday her education at the Ivy League school gave her more confidence and helped her survive a tough business.
“I left Princeton learning that learning is a lifelong enterprise and I graduated more confident than I had ever been,” she said. “When I reentered the acting world, I thought I would be welcomed back with open arms. I’d be not only an actress, but an actress with an education. But I learned it was not a quality studios deemed primary for talent. I lost all of my footing those four years and had to learn to work my way back in.
“While losing my footing, I was gaining the most important footing of life,” she said. “Without those four years, I would have never survived an industry that predicates itself on eating its young.”
Shields addressed graduates at Class Day, one of the school’s oldest traditions that recognizes student achievement. The graduating class designs the program, which is an upbeat, more laid back ceremony than other graduation events and includes speeches that are full of humor.
Shields reminisced about her time at Princeton, becoming emotional at times as she recalled her four years at the school, where she studied French literature. Both she and University President Shirley Tilghman, who referred to herself as “Mama Tilghman” in a light-hearted speech to the class of 2011, warned students that life would be challenging once they leave the “orange bubble” that is Princeton.
“Your gestation in this orange bubble is about to come to an abrupt end,” Tilghman said. “In one day you will be facing the cruel world outside these gates. I know something about this cruel world – I lived in Philadelphia, where Eagles fans cheer when people throw snowballs at Santa Claus.”
Tilghman joked that while students at Princeton are rewarded for hard work with pancake breakfasts, in the real world of work they will be rewarded by not being fired.
“And you may have to go outside to access a laundry machine, and it may even require quarters,” she said. “And it will not text you when your cycle is over.”
Shields told graduates they will always have to prove themselves and that things will rarely go as they plan.
“But you will get what you are meant to,” she said. “You have what it takes to succeed. You will soar if you aim high and strive for the best…Your diploma is your passport to the next phase.”
She cautioned graduates to not be lazy or act entitled, but to work hard, take breaks, and enjoy the things they love.
“You will make mistakes,” she said. “Then you will learn, make more mistakes, and grow.”
In the our years undergraduates have been at the university, the U.S. economy sank. Shields called on students to go in to the world and “fix what we broke.”
“It’s when options are few and desperation kicks in that heroes are made,” she said. “Make change responsibly and remember, the world is behind you.”