Maz Jobrani Delivers UC Berkeley Commencement Keynote Speech

Maz Jobrani Delivers UC Berkeley Commencement Keynote Speech

October 23, 2019 39 By Stanley Isaacs


– Wow, Chancellor, faculty, staff, parents, students and Ann Coulter, welcome to the graduation ceremonies of UC Berkeley, 2017! (audience applauding and cheering) I’m kidding she’s not here, don’t worry, don’t worry, she’s not here. (audience laughing) but maybe she’s watching, maybe she’s watching live streaming, hey Ann, they let me speak. Ha ha! (audience laughing) Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, baby. (audience cheering) That’s what happens when
you’re not saying stupid stuff. Anyway, graduates, congratulations. Today is your day, all of you, after four arduous years some of you five, after five arduous years. (audience laughing) Some of you six, after six arduous, (audience laughing) a few of you seven, after seven arduous, if you’ve been here seven years you probably don’t know
what arduous means. (audience laughing) So after seven hard years of work you’re graduating, congratulations. (audience cheering) you’re on your way. (audience cheering) Today is about you. So let me spend the next hour-and-a-half telling you about me. (audience laughing) No, it won’t be an hour-and-a-half, ’bout 20 minutes, anyway. Guys, I gotta tell you, I can’t believe I’m giving this commencement
speech right now. It’s very surreal to me, I graduated from UC Berkeley
almost 25 years ago. (audience member whooping) Yeah, man. (audience cheering) Go Bears, and I still can’t, back then
I never would have imagined that I’d be up here giving this speech. When you first invited
me to give the speech I immediately accepted. I was honored, I was excited, and then the next day
I started freaking out. (audience laughing) Yeah, I was like, what
the hell was I thinking, I’m a comedian, I don’t
want to write a speech. I mean it was almost like I’d given myself a homework assignment. (audience laughing) Yeah, I mean I dropped
out of a PhD program to not write homework. But here I was, (audience member cheering) Yeah and the worst part
of the homework assignment was that if I did not turn
in this homework assignment and complete the speech, not only would I not graduate, but you wouldn’t graduate. (audience laughing) Yeah, it started weighing on me and I started getting nervous. I was loosing sleep, I
actually couldn’t figure out, I said, why did you pick me? And then I found ways to calm myself, you know for example, I thought
well I don’t even remember who gave my commencement
speech back in ’93. (audience laughing) Yeah, and then I thought
will you guys remember who gave your commencement
speech here today? Well no, I thought most likely no because most of you are probably stoned. (audience laughing) Yes, thank you Cal, thank you, that made me feel much better. (audience laughing) And if you do remember who
gave your commencement speech then you just need better weed. (audience laughing) Now guys, I prepared for this speech and in preparing for this speech I went online and I did some research. I found that Cal Alumni and researchers won 90 Nobel Prizes, 45
MacArthur Fellowships. Yeah, 14 Pulitzer Prizes,
117 Olympic Gold Medals, and 20 Academy Awards. (audience cheering) Yes, (audience cheering) and yet you picked me, (audience laughing) to give your speech. I graduated from Cal in 1993 with a Bachelors in Political Science, (audience cheering) yes, poly sci, and a minor in Italian. (audience cheering) Yes, I have won zero
MacArthur Fellowships, zero Nobels, zero Pulitzer Prizes, zero Gold Medals, I haven’t
even won a Bronze Medal. But I’m that guy from the
CBS sitcom, Superior Donuts, so I’m giving the speech. (audience laughing) Yeah, it didn’t make
sense to me either, man. Guys, listen I had to dig deeper to find out what really happened and I was told that you originally you tried to get Barack Obama. (audience cheering) Yeah, now see that makes sense. But when he said no, you settled on me. (audience laughing) What are you guys lazy? (audience laughing) What did you guys go out to the first African American President of the United States
of America, he said, no and then you go well, who’s someone who’s looking for more
Instagram followers? (audience laughing) Someone who’ll do this and won’t say no? Call Maz, he’ll do it. And you know what? You were right. (audience laughing) I am looking for more Instagram followers. Here, come in, let’s do a
selfie, real quickly everybody. (audience cheering) Here we go, here we go, get close, I’m gonna tag all of you hold on. (audience laughing) Here we go, one, two, three, eh! (audience cheering) And one with these guys, hey! (audience cheering) All right, now I’ve got the picture but I still don’t know why you picked me. I thought in all honesty,
I thought that maybe you guys picked me
because I’m a Cal Alumnus and I could tell you some facts about Cal that would make us all feel
good about UC Berkeley, for example you guys
probably know about this, Cal, Forbes, Forbes just ranked Cal as the number one value
college in all of America. (audience cheering) Yes, which has your parents
breathing a sigh of relief, going whew, we got our money’s worth. (audience laughing) At just under $13,000 a year your parents could have
been driving around the past four years in a Jaguar XE. (audience laughing) but instead they sent your ass to Cal. (audience laughing) Yeah, so you better get a job soon and pay them back or at least start working as a Lyft driver and give them free rides for four years. (audience laughing) That’s value for your money. Just this year Cal scientists figured out why shoelaces come untied. (audience laughing) Yeah, I read that in the Daily Cal and I thought to myself, you
can get a grant for that? (audience laughing) And then I thought they
should have just paid me, I have kids, I would have
told them to double-knot it. Duh. (audience laughing) Now Cal is not just an academic behemoth but it also has great sports. Yes, Cal is ranked number one
in watching football games, Cal football games. (audience laughing) Yes, Cal fans, we’re ranked number one in watching Cal football
games and going, yeah, oh, (audience laughing) Yeah! Oh! Yeah, oh!` Usually ending in oh. But we love our team. (audience cheering) Yes, go Bears! (audience cheering) Now you know Cal’s Sproul Plaza was the birthplace of
the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s and has
since been the birthplace of several thousand drug deals. (audience laughing) If Cal were a celebrity
it would be Lucy Liu, smart, beautiful and mostly Chinese. (audience laughing) Yeah, the Chinese guys like it, yeah, there you go, that was good, you like that? He liked that. (audience laughing) You can clap. – [Audience Member] Yeah Chinese! – Yeah, man. Lastly, lastly here’s a good statistic, Cal is ranked number one
as the top university in all of the Bay Area,
beating out Stanford in every category that counts! (audience cheering) Yeah, yes! Yes, this was a study done
by me in my own head. (audience laughing) Go Bears! (audience laughing) All right, so it’s clear
that I graduated from Cal. But there’s a lot of Cal Alumni who aren’t giving this speech today, so I thought to myself
there must be another reason why you guys invited me? And I realized the reason I was invited is most likely because I am a Cal Alumnus who also happens to be an immigrant. Yes, (audience cheering) Yes, yes, that’s right Fox News, immigrants
taking your jobs, again. (audience laughing) Yeah, baby. In a time when anti-immigrant
sentiment is on the rise and we have a president
who fans the flames of fear against immigrants and refugees, leave it to the students at UC Berkeley to send a message of
inclusivity to the world by choosing an immigrant to
give the commencement speech here today at Cal. (audience cheering) Now before I go any further I know that some of you are thinking, oh no, here comes the anti-Trump stuff and this being Cal most
of you are thinking, oh yes, here comes the anti-Trump stuff. (audience laughing) Yeah, let me assure you
today is not about Democrats or Republicans or
Independents or Green Party or any of that stuff. Today there’s only love for everybody, I’m serious, yes, (audience cheering) I’m serious! Listen, even if you voted for Trump we still love you, we do. Listen I know immigrants
that voted for Trump, yes. I have immigrant friends
who voted for Trump because they wanted fewer taxes, they ended up with fewer relatives, (audience laughing) but still, things happen, things happen. Speaking of Trump, if you’re thinking of
committing a federal crime, this weekend would be a good time to do it because he just fired the head of the FBI. (audience laughing) Jim Comey, yeah, easy Comey, easy Gomey, (audience laughing) Trump keeps firing people, can someone let him know he’s
no longer on the Apprentice. Okay enough Trump stuff,
let’s get serious. Guys, let me start by saying and I know this is being
live-streamed as well so let me tell the world, immigrants love America, all right? We love America. (audience cheering) We run away from strife
and conflict and poverty to come here for a better life. As cliche as it might sound America is still the land of opportunity where anyone can become anything. (audience applauding) I was born in Iran. (audience cheering) Yes, my Iranians, yeah. At the age of six my
family was forced to flee the Iranian Revolution
and we came to America. Today I stand in front of you giving the commencement speech at one of the top university’s in America if not the world. I am the American Dream. (audience cheering) Now as many of you know,
Berkeley has students from over 160 different countries and that number does not
include the immigrant students with U.S. high school degrees. Cal was the first campus to have an undocumented students program and is the role model for
dozens of other programs that are being created across the country. (audience applauding) (audience cheering) I know that many of you are
first generation Americans, or your parents are first
generation Americans. Yes, for many of you, you’re the
first graduating in your family. Yes, (audience cheering) guys, your parents have
sacrificed so much, they’ve fled war and revolution and worked hard and swallowed their pride to get you here today. We have an amazing mix with us today. I know for example we’ve
got Mexican Americans, let me hear Mexican Americans, let me here Mexican, yes, yes! We’ve got Indian Americans,
Indian Americans, let me here Indian Americans. (audience cheering) Yes, Chinese Americans, Chinese Americans, Iranian Americans. (audience cheering) Syrian Americans, yes, let me keep it going. What else do we have? Just yell what you have, Lebanese Americans. Where are you from? There you go, he brought his flag, he brought his flag, there we go. We have Vietnamese Americans, Armenian Americans! Give it up for wherever you’re from, give it up, give it up! Columbian Americans, yes! (audience cheering) Palestinian Americans, yes! (audience cheering) Iraqi, I mean guys, this is a beautiful mix of people, lets keep it going, where’s
my Native Americans? Native Americans, Native Americans. African Americans, where’s
my African Americans? Yes, where’s my white people? White people, white people yes, we love you white people. (audience laughing) white people, you’re the
rice and we are the spice. (audience cheering) Yes, white people, without us all day long you’d be eating meatloaf. (audience laughing) Because of us you have chow mein, and you have sushi, and you’ve
kabob and humus and curry. Who doesn’t love curry? (audience cheering) This is America, right here, look at it, this is America. Now guys, yes, give it up for America, this is America. (audience cheering) Guys, my parents came to America and they brought us in late 1978. They were in the middle of
their lives back in Iran, but they had to leave their
home and bring the kids and work and they had to
come to a foreign land. But back then in late
1978, America welcomed us. But then things changed
quickly when Iranians took Americans hostage in Iran. And suddenly we started getting blamed for the actions of a government that we had fled and that we opposed. Yes, things turned ugly when that anti-immigrant sentiment started coming home and
hitting close to home. When I would be in the fourth grade and I would have older kids
call me and F’in Iranian. Other Iranians were being
beaten up and shot at just for being Iranian in America. Unfortunately this has been
a part of American history for other communities as well. As we all know Japanese Americans during WWII were put into internment camps for the actions of the
Japanese government. More recently after September 11th, Indian Sikhs, were shot and killed just because they wore turbans. Even more recently, just
this past year in Kansas, a man went and shot two Indians and then went and claimed
that he had shot two Iranians. Our own president fans
this anti-immigrant flame by calling Mexicans
rapists and drug dealers and by clumping in
Syrian refugees with ISIS even though they’re fleeing ISIS. (audience applauding) Earlier this year, when the administration tried to impose their travel ban, I knew a storm was coming. The travel ban was sold as a way to keep terrorists out of America and to keep America safe. However, none of the countries
that were in the travel ban had committed an act of terror in America. Again, people who had done
nothing wrong were being blamed. I heard a lot of the real
stories of what was happening. I heard of an elderly couple
who had flown to America, to Los Angeles, with a
visa to come see their son and once they landed they
were coaxed into signing a piece of paper that revoked their visa, they were put back on an airplane and sent back to Iran. I heard of another Iranian man in Norway who had gotten a visa
to come see his father who was sick and
basically on his death-bed and his visa was revoked. I heard of a Syrian refugee family who’d been living in the Middle East in a refugee camp, had been vetted after several years, told they could come to America, sold all of their belongings and then told they can’t come to America. This travel ban was not
keeping America safe. It was tearing families
apart and ruining lives. (audience applauding) Hearing those stories reminded
me of my own experience. What would have happened
if on December 5th, 1978, when I came here with my family, they put us back on a plane and sent us back to Iran? What kind of psychological damage would that have done to me and my family if we had to be sent
back into a revolution that we were fleeing? Imagine your own parents
and your own grandparents, what would have happened if
when they landed in America they were sent back? How would that have changed your destiny? Immigrants and refugees
are not just numbers, they are people coming to
America for a better life. Yes, (audience applauding) I believe that most
Americans are good people and if they could only hear the stories of the struggles of these
refugees and these immigrants they would welcome them
rather than shunning them. If I can drive one point home to you today it would be to put yourself in the shoes of the less
fortunate and have empathy! (audience cheering) (audience applauding) You are blessed to be graduating from one of the top
institutions in the world. Not everyone has that opportunity. So when you come across others in America or around the world who
are less fortunate than you be open to them and try to
understand their experiences. Try to help them if you can, always fight for the underdog. One of the coolest things I saw when I went to a protest at
LAX against the travel ban, was the group of lawyers who’d shown up and were waiting for people to arrive so they could volunteer
their services to help them. Be that lawyer! (audience applauding) Now whether you’re an immigrant or not, we’re at a crossroads in American history and you graduates are
right in the thick of it. Do we keep the American Dream alive and let people from around the world come to this country to
make the best of their lives or do we close ourselves in and kill the American Dream? 25 years from now who will
be giving this speech? Will it be someone from Damascus? Or Mogadishu? Or who knows, maybe an
undocumented student? Yes, I would encourage us
to aim for a future America that welcomes people of
different backgrounds, and thrives on diversity. (audience cheering) (audience applauding) Now since we’re at Berkeley I have to talk about another topic as well and that is free speech,
I’ll keep it brief. As someone born in Iran where free speech is limited and people fight for it on a daily basis, sometimes even dying for it, I would urge you to always,
always fight for free speech and never take it for granted. Now as the Chancellor so eloquently put in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, I know that Berkeley recently found itself in the middle of some controversies with threats of violence and
had to make some decisions about Ann Coulter and Milo
Yiannopoulos on this campus. Let me tell you in preparing
for this section of the speech I actually had to go back
and read some of the writings of Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Oh my God, talk about torture. (audience laughing) I mean they say a lot of stupid stuff, so I can understand why you
don’t want them to speak here. However, I would encourage you to fight even for their right to free speech. (audience applauding) I know that’s not a popular
thing to say at Cal, but I really feel that’s a
conversation we should have and I also feel that if we let them speak eventually they will hang
themselves with their own words. (audience applauding) We saw that with Milo, the way Milo did. Now let me tell you why free speech is so important, you guys. I’ve done standup comedy around the world and in 2007 I got to go to the Middle East and do a tour in five different countries. And whenever we do
shows in the Middle East the promoters would tell us you can talk about anything you want, but no sex, no religion and no politics. (audience laughing) So we’d say, hello and goodnight. (audience laughing) Or since we were in the Middle East, as-salām ‘alaykum and ‘alaykum as-salām. (audience laughing) Fox News will take that clip as well and put it with the immigrant, (audience laughing) He spoke Arabic and he took our jobs. (audience laughing) But let me tell you the reason they didn’t want us talking politics, they didn’t want us
talking about their leaders in their own country. So if you were in Egypt you couldn’t talk about Hosni Mubarak, who was the president then. But you could talk about a
leader in another country. As a matter of fact at one point one of the promoters got word to us that the Ministry of Information had contacted them asking us if any of us had any material about Hosni Mubarak. I swear to God, the
reason was a journalist, a few months earlier, had written a piece where he said that Hosni Mubarak was looking older these days and he’d been thrown in jail for it. Yeah, so I quickly told the promoters I have no jokes about Hosni Mubarak, that hansome, young devil. (audience laughing) But here’s the thing where
it comes to free speech. When I came back to America
people would ask me, what’s the difference between standup in the Middle East and America? I would tell them the
difference is in America we’re encouraged to
make fun of our leaders. In America our late night
hosts make fun of our leaders on a nightly basis because we
are secure in our government. Our leaders our secure
in their leadership. In America we hold an annual dinner where the president shows
up and gets roasted. (audience laughing) And then this year, Donald
Trump decided not to attend and I thought, oh my God, we’re closer to a Middle
Eastern dictatorship than an American democracy. Why, (audience applauding) why is President Trump
afraid of being made fun of? Is he not secure in his leadership? Why is it that every time
there’s a piece of news about him that he doesn’t
like he calls it, fake news? These are tactics that a
Middle Eastern dictator like Hosni Mubarak would be using in 2007 rather than a tactic that the leader of the free world should be using in 2017. (audience applauding) So my point on free speech is that if we limit the free
speech from the Right, then we sound like hypocrites when we criticize our own president for trying to limit free
speech and free press. Yes, let’s be the ones, let’s not be the ones
attacking free speech, let’s be the ones defending it. (audience applauding) (audience cheering) Now I know I’m getting a
little political here today and I’m sure that some of
your parents and grandparents are not too happy about it, but it’ll make for good conversation over brunch and mimosas. (audience laughing) But I’m not gonna apologize
and I’ll tell you why in many immigrant cultures we’re told not to question authority. Growing up my parents would tell us that we have a reputation in the community and that we should just
stay out of trouble and not rock the boat. But in America we’re encouraged
to question authority and I implore you to keep rocking the boat even when you graduate. (audience cheering) Yes. Criticize our leaders and
hold them accountable. Guys, the travel ban reminded me that even though I’ve lived
most of my life in America some people don’t consider me American. It reminded me that my
rights could be taken away at the drop of a hat. It woke me up, the travel ban woke me up and I started going to the protests at LAX and I started posting on social media. Some people they were
fans of mine on Facebook would write me back and say,
“Maz, stop talking politics “you’re gonna loose a fan.” And I would write back, “Oh well.” I would rather fight for what’s
right and follow my heart than sell tickets to a comedy show. (audience cheering) I encourage you to get involved, be politically active. You know it’s easy to get a nine-to-five, put your head down and
collect the paycheck. But there’s so many causes
out there and they need you. We all know there’s so many
battles that need to be fought, immigrant rights, women’s
rights, Black Lives Matter, global warming, LGBTQ
rights and many, many more. Stay politically active. So there’s much work to be done you guys. A lot of this work falls in your lap, I’m very optimistic about your future. I think you’ll be more
integrated and more progressive than many generations before you. I myself am Iranian American
and my wife is Indian American, our kids are confused. (audience laughing) But they don’t know the
difference in color, they don’t judge people based on color, keep pushing the envelope of inclusivity. Now as much as I’m not a religious person, I try to live my life by these
three tenents that I’ve heard in the ancient Persian
religion Zoroastrianism, good words, good thoughts, good deeds. Try to live your life with those tenents. (audience applauding) I will end today on a less political note. I’m gonna leave you
with a few parting tips that I’ve gleaned over the past 24 years since I was sitting where
you’re sitting here today. Let’s call these, final tips. Tip one, always tip. (audience laughing) Preferably 20% if you can. I believe in karma and that
what you put out in the world will come back to you
but it also feels good. Besides being stingy sucks
and nobody likes you. (audience laughing) Tip two, find what it is that
you love to do and do it. And only you know what that thing is. My mom, (audience cheering) yes, my mom wanted me to be a lawyer. When I told her that I did
not want to be a lawyer she told me, and I quote, “Well then, “at least become a mechanic.” (audience laughing) I swear to God, I asked her I said, “How’d you go from lawyer to mechanic?” She said, “Everybody needs a mechanic, “nobody needs a comedian.” (audience laughing) – [Audience Member] That’s true. – It’s true. (laughing) I realized my mom didn’t
know what my passion was, she just wanted me to have a secure future because she loves me. And I love my mom, as I’m sure
most of you love your moms, (audience laughing) but your parents don’t know crap. (audience laughing) Nobody knows crap when it comes to what you want to do in your life. Picking your passion for your
life is not a secure choice but if you can find that
passion you will be happy and you will follow your
passion and lead a great life, so find that passion
and live that passion. (audience applauding) (audience cheering) Tip three, travel. The world is big and it’s beautiful, go see the world and by seeing the world I don’t mean a weekend in Cabo. (audience laughing) Go overseas, go to South America, go to Europe, go to Australia, go to Beirut, go visit Beirut, yes, Lebanon. Go visit the Muslim world, you will see that, (audience cheering) Yes, go visit the Muslim world, you will see that Muslims
are not out to get you they just want you to buy a rug. (audience laughing) Tip number four, never pay full price for that rug. (audience laughing) Always negotiate, and in negotiating
always say, “My friend.” it helps. (audience laughing) “My friend, discount for me my friend.” (audience laughing) Tip five, kiss your parents
every time you see them. (audience cheering) Yes, kiss your parents. (audience applauding) Every time you see them, especially if they’re immigrants because you never know, tomorrow they might be deported. (audience laughing) UC Berkeley, I want to thank
my family who came out today, my wife, my mother, my
sisters, my friends, my old school teachers. I want to thank you for inviting me. I want to thank everyone here and congratulate them. Once again, congratulations UC Berkeley, Class of 2017 and go Bears! (audience cheering) (audience applauding)