Taylor Swift receives honorary degree from NYU, describes her journey in commencement speech at Yankee Stadium

·3 min read
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NEW YORK — She’s feeling ’22.

Taylor Swift received an honorary degree from New York University on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, and assured the Class of 2022 it’s OK to make mistakes in an aspirational commencement speech.

“I was a teenager at a time when our society was absolutely obsessed with the idea of having perfect young female role models,” Swift told the new graduates.

“I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn’t make any mistakes, that all the children of America would grow up perfect angels. However, if I did slip up, the entire Earth would fall off its axis, and it’d be entirely my fault. ... It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and ultimately the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life. This has not been my experience.”

Dressed in a black cap and purple gown, Swift, 32, waved and blew kisses to the Bronx crowd as she arrived on the field, then unleashed a big smile as she accepted her honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Her nearly 25-minute speech balanced advice and personal anecdotes with moments of humor and references to her songs.

“I would like to thank NYU for making me, technically, on paper at least, a doctor,” Swift quipped. “Not the type of doctor you would want around in case of an emergency, unless your specific emergency was that you desperately needed to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section, or if your emergency was that you needed a person who can name over 50 breeds of cats in one minute.”

Wednesday’s in-person ceremony honored graduates from 2020, 2021 and 2022 after NYU’s traditional commencement festivities were postponed the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone in college during normal times stresses about test scores,” Swift said. “But on top of that, you also had to pass like 1,000 COVID tests.

“I imagine the idea of a normal college experience was all you wanted, too. But in this case, you and I both learned that you don’t always get all the things in the bag that you selected from the menu in the delivery service that is life. You get what you get, and as I would like to say to you, wholeheartedly, you should be very proud of what you’ve done with it.”

Swift is an 11-time Grammy winner known for songs such as “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Shake It Off” and “22.”

She’s the latest high-profile person to receive an honorary NYU degree. Others include 18-time Grammy winner Aretha Franklin, former President Bill Clinton, civil rights leader John Lewis and actor Billy Crystal, who also graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

NYU’s other honorary degree recipients on Wednesday were CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield.

“I know it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be and when, who you are now and how to act in order to get where you want to go,” Swift said in her speech. “I have some good news: It’s totally up to you. I have some terrifying news: It’s totally up to you.”