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Seinfeld to Duke grads: ‘Don’t think about having, think about becoming’

In advocating for love, Seinfeld emphasized that the value extended beyond people to finding enthusiasm and joy in the mundane.

Jessica Seinfeld and Jerry Seinfeld at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.
Jessica Seinfeld and Jerry Seinfeld at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

After accepting an honorary degree from Duke University, actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld gave a laugh-laden commencement speech in which he bestowed some sound advice to his audience.

On Sunday at the academic institution in Durham, N.C., he started by joking that in inviting him, administrators must have thought, “Let’s bring the sophistication and erudition of the Duke experience down a couple notches.”

As he was about to receive his honorary degree, a number of anti-Israel protesters stood up and walked out of the ceremony as they chanted, “Free, free Palestine.”

That didn’t stop the comedian from offering his “three real keys to life.” He said, “No jokes in this part, OK? They are, No. 1: Bust your ass. No. 2: Pay attention. No. 3: Fall in love.”

In advocating for love, Seinfeld emphasized that the value extended beyond people to finding enthusiasm and joy in the mundane.

“I suggest falling in love with anything and everything. Every chance you get,” he said.

“Fall in love with your coffee, your sneakers, your blue-zone parking space. I’ve had a lot of fun in life falling in love with stupid, meaningless physical objects.”

An example of this ethos came recently in Seinfeld’s “Unfrosted,” a lighthearted comedy about the invention in 1963 of the Pop-Tart, which arrived on Netflix on May 3. Seinfeld both stars and makes his directorial debut in the film that showcases his well-known love for breakfast cereals.

“I have truly spent my life focusing on the smallest things imaginable, completely oblivious to all the big issues of living,” Seinfeld said.

And then he offered what he called “the most important thing I am confident that I know about life.”

He said: “Do not lose your sense of humor. You can have no idea at this point in your life how much you are going to need it to get through. Not enough of life makes sense for you to be able to survive it without humor.”

Offering some final advice, he added: “Don’t think about having, think about becoming. Having is fine, but focus on becoming. That is where it’s at.”

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