Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo waxes wisely at Ringling College graduation
Looking professorial in regalia, eyeglasses and gray beard, actor Mark Ruffalo gave advice and accepted an honorary degree Thursday at Ringling College of Art and Design commencement ceremonies.
"Dr. Banner, meet Dr. Ruffalo," the actor joked, a ceremonial cowl draped around his neck. Ruffalo was referring to the alter ego of his Marvel film character, the Incredible Hulk.
"I learned in acting that you should start with the truth and learn to lie from there," he said. "The truth is: I barely graduated high school."
As such, Ruffalo described himself as "very nervous" to be chosen to speak.
"I usually do better with someone else's words than my own."
The Academy Award-nominated star of such acclaimed films as Spotlight, Foxcatcher and Zodiac asked several close friends for advice, with his 11-year-old daughter topping his idea for an opener:
"You've changed the way you look a lot, so now go change the world," she suggested.
"We could just stop right there and go partying, right?" Ruffalo asked the audience, who cheered agreement.
The actor, filmmaker, environmental activist and humanitarian accepted Thursday's role after his children's nanny - a student at Sarasota's Ringling - asked if he would speak. The ceremony at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, streamed live on the college's website.
It didn't take long for Ruffalo to turn serious, speaking generally about activism rather than specifically about his advocacy for renewable energy and concerns about climate change.
"The morality of humanity that art teaches us isn't about not smoking or drinking, or who you have sex with. It's the reality of the human story. And you are moving into a world in desperate need of change... Creativity is a revolution."
Throughout remarks that rambled at times, Ruffalo repeated his theme of taking responsibility in making a difference.
"I want to encourage you guys not to be afraid," Ruffalo said. "Not to focus on monetary gain... but also to focus on community. Justice is the name of the new era we're living in."
Yet with that responsibility to the world comes a responsibility to self.
"Live your life," he said. "Don't live your mom's life or your dad's life or your girlfriend's. Follow your heart's contentment all the way to the end... Following that part of you that gives you joy is what the world is all about."
Ruffalo concluded his remarks by quoting from Walt Whitman's preface to his Leaves of Grass poetry collection, and a startling closer for a Marvel superhero:
"It's an honor to be here graduating with you guys, and may the Force be with you."