TUSKEGEE, Ala. (May 6, 2016) — Using the story of his successes and failures as a backdrop, filmmaker and philanthropist Tyler Perry encouraged Tuskegee graduates to look beyond their career plans and focus on the true intent for their work. Perry delivered his message of inspiration and encouragement to approximately 520 graduates during the 2016 Spring Commencement Exercises Saturday in the Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Arena.
After being presented his first honorary degree from Tuskegee University, Tyler Perry told the graduates that he envied their college education. Likening learning to creating a building’s foundation, Perry said an education coupled with perseverance and sacrifice will pay off with success.
Perry said he had to learn the hard way in business, but his greatest lesson was the experience of getting his first play in a theater. What should have been a success was a poorly attended failure that led to him being homeless and living in his car. But, he persevered and learned to change his focus from monetary gains to using his work to help people. Once he made that shift, Perry said his efforts were fruitful and led him on the path to being the successful businessman he is today. He also advised that the graduating class look beyond their career goals and find a higher purpose.
“Today, I want to challenge you to know your intention as to why you do what you do,” Perry said. “I promise you if your intention is right, you will be successful.”
Share your gifts
The graduates were also warned by Perry to expect the bitter consequences of excelling- criticism and misjudgment. After becoming an established filmmaker, Perry said he faced an onslaught of disapprovals and unfair assessments of his work being bad representations of black people. However, he pressed forward and continued to tell the types of stories he wanted to tell, featuring the types of black people he wanted to feature.
“Don’t you change one brushstroke on your canvas just because someone doesn’t like what you’re painting,” he said.
Perry urged the graduates to value their roots and themselves on their journey to success. He said it was time for people to stop running from where they came from and to realize that they do not need outside approval to be special and talented.
“Live in your truth. Share your gifts,” Perry said. “If your aim and your intentions are right and do the right thing, you will make it.”