Charlie’s Commencement Speech at Merrimack College

“I don’t think you should just do what makes you happy. Do what makes you great.” – Charlie Day

Charlie Day graduated from Merrimack College in 1998. In 2014 he was asked to speak at graduation and give the commencement speech.

His speech is absolutely amazing and it’s awesome how you can hear his Charlie Kelly character show through once in awhile. It seems his personality somewhat fits the character he plays.

Unlike his character, Charlie is a genius and there’s a lot of great advice packed in his speech that anyone could benefit from.

You can read the transcript from his speech and watch the video below. Enjoy!

I don’t think you should just do what makes you happy. Do what makes you great.

Commencement Speech Transcript

Good morning Merrimack. I’d like to thank President Hopey, trustees, faculty, students, parents, and my apologies to all the grandparents in the audience who have absolutely no idea who I am.

You are graduating from an excellent school today. Alumni have gone on to be CEO’s, doctors, politicians, professional athletes, however this year you get to receive wisdom, knowledge and life lessons, from a man who has made a living pretending to eat cat food.

I do however have some qualifications, some insight, because I, like you are becoming today, am a Merrimack College Graduate. I know what it took to get here. I was in this very room. I sat in those uncomfortable chairs. I dressed like some sort of medieval pastry chef and I too desperately hoped my hangover would wear off. If you can just make it to brunch you should be alright.

Take note. A quick observation.

Apparently the higher in life you climb in life the more ridiculous your hats become. Like the one I’m wearing today, or the pope’s or Pharrell. So if in some way you fear success, just think of the hats and that alone should motivate you.

This may be hard to believe but it was roughly twenty years ago that as a freshman I first set foot on this campus. I remember it well. My parent’s eyes filled with tears. My own nervous excitement. I entered the Ash dormitory. I walked to my room. My heart was pounding with what the future might hold. I reached for the door handle, grabbed it tight, only to discover it had been covered with Vaseline.

It was a real lame prank being pulled by the boys on the third floor. “So this is how it’s gonna be” I thought to myself. “Okay. They have no idea who just arrived on campus.” I had to take action. I befriended a guy named Ed with a similar penchant for mischievousness. And late that evening Ed and I went to the third floor community bathrooms and cut all their shower curtains at waist high. Leaving the third floor boys with a diabolical option the next morning. Pass on a shower or take the most embarrassing shower of your life. My apologies for the destruction of school property. I’ll donate two shower curtains. You’ll have to dig up Ed to get the third.

Merrimack has come a long way since my time. The campus has grown. The quality of student improved. U.S. News & World Report ranked Merrimack as one of the top ten regional colleges in the north. In my time there was a young man at this school who scored in the zero percentile on his SAT’s meaning nobody in the nation did worse than this man. This was a man who once mistakenly said “he wished he lived when it was black and white.” A man who with complete seriousness told someone, that “he would take their advice in to cooperation.” This man, of course … was my room mate.

Did you think it was me? Come on. You’re confusing me with my tv character. No. I was a decent student and I’m actually a doctor now. I have a PHD. I’d like to thank the school with bestowing me with this honor and highlighting to all the students and the other PHD’s in the room today the complete and utter unfairness of life.

And although I join the ranks of fellow prestigious Honorary Doctors like Mike Tyson and Kermit The Frog and although I fully acknowledge that Dr. Charlie Day sounds like some kind of club DJ. I assure you all that I intend to go by this title from here on out. And as a doctor I plan to start writing my own prescriptions immediately.

Now, I know that having a honorary doctorate degree will do nothing for me, but I’m here to tell you today that your degrees, the ones you toiled to get, the ones you actually took classes to earn, those degrees, will also basically do nothing.


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