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Tyler Perry to new grads: ‘If you do what you love, you will work harder than you could ever imagine’

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Tyler Perry accepts People's Champion Award onstage for the 2020 E! People's Choice Awards held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California and on broadcast on Sunday, November 15, 2020.
Christopher Polk | E! Entertainment | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Billionaire actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Tyler Perry delivered Emory University's commencement address on Monday, where he also received an honorary doctorate of letters degree.

In his speech, Perry acknowledged that students today have many advantages that can lead to a false sense of reality, but emphasized how dedication is the key to success.

"You were born into the age of the internet, where everything you need is right there on your phone," he shared with Emory University's class of 2022. "But I believe that this time that you have grown up in has given some of you a false sense of reality. As your commencement speaker, I hope I can help you prepare for what's beyond your college years. Most dreams do not appear in your life without hard work, struggle, and sacrifice."

He also suggested that failure is a crucial part of success, mentioning the hardships he faced while trying to break into the entertainment industry.

"I raised enough money to put on my first play. I was expecting 1,200 people to come over the course of the weekend. Only 30 people showed up for six performances. I was devastated… I tried to play in different parts of the country, and still nothing for seven years."

"After trying over and over and over and over again, eventually, I would end up homeless on the streets of Atlanta sleeping in a car that I was hiding from the repo man," Perry said. "I wanted to give up. But I felt something that kept calling me. Something that kept pushing me forward."

In 2008, Tyler Perry became the first African American to own his own major film and television studio. To date, Perry has produced 17 feature films, 20 stage plays, and seven television shows. 

Perry reiterated to graduates that without hard work and perseverance, dreams won't become reality.

"I heard a saying once that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I'm sure you've heard that, but I want to challenge that because if you do what you love, you will work harder than you could ever imagine. Your dreams will call for that kind of commitment."

He ended his speech by stressing the importance of appreciating "professors" in your life post-graduation: your family members, mentors, bosses, etc. He also encouraged the graduates to follow the desires of their heart.

"Professors will be with you all of your life. I'm 52 years old and I'm still meeting professors. Anyone who comes into your life, anyone who comes to teach you something, to bring value, those people count as professors," he said.

"As you start your life, careers, and businesses, remember that it may take a while for you to build your dream," he shared. "This is your life. Don't be afraid to chart your own course. Don't be afraid to make your own way. Don't be afraid to walk your own path and leave your own footprints."

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