- (Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Dabbous)
Award-winning actor Robert De Niro received an honorary doctorate degree of fine arts from Bates College on Sunday.
The 68-year-old delivered a commencement speech at the school, located in Lewiston, Maine, before the graduating class of 463 students over the weekend.
"With all due respect to Gwen Ifull and Bonnie Bassler, I think this is the most important piece of advice you'll get today: become a movie star," joked De Niro in his address, referring to Ifill, a journalist, and Bassler, a molecular biologist, who also received honorary doctorates.
De Niro continued to impart advice to the graduates, as excerpted by the Bangor Daily News.
"Now, you might be tempted by other careers, other interests, other commitments," said the Academy Award winner. "There might be pressure on you to change the world, but you want to find the strength to resist. When I started, I wasn't a movie star, and it sucked. The moment I became a movie star, things started to get better."
The actor got his start at age 20 despite lacking any formal education. De Niro mentioned quitting high school while speaking to the liberal arts schools graduates.
"In many ways, leaving school when I did, it was an advantage," he said during his 15-minute address. "I saved nearly $6,000 by not having to pay tuition and expenses for four years of education."
Although his address was mostly humorous, the actor noted an important message.
"Keep an open mind," said De Niro to the graduates. "Welcome new experiences and new ideas. Don't be afraid to try things. Don't be afraid to fail. I always say, if you don't go, you'll never know."
He concluded with, "Congratulations to the Class of 2012. And congratulations to myself."
De Niro is best known for his roles in films such as "Bang the Drum Slowly," "Mean Streets," and "The Godfather Part II," the role which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The New York City native has also appeared in critically acclaimed films such as "Taxi Driver," "Cape Fear," and "The Deer Hunter."