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Appearing on Seth Meyers’ Late Night on Tuesday, Jenny Slate opened up about giving a commencement speech to a single graduating student on a tiny Massachusetts island.
The actress and comedian spoke at Cuttyhunk Elementary School’s graduation earlier in June. The school is a one-room schoolhouse on the island that has a year-round population of approximately 12 people.
Slate’s audience was Gwen Lynch, the school’s lone eighth grade graduate. Lynch was joined by her family and other Cuttyhunk residents at the ceremony.
“I gave the commencement speech to her class, which was her,” Slate explained.
She added that Lynch had not requested her to make the speech. “She did not request me at all. I found this out from The New York Times,” the comedian said before clarifying that she learned that she wasn’t Lynch’s top choice for the speech before the ceremony, which, she joked, was “devastating.”
“I heard from The Times that she wanted Michelle Obama and they were like, ‘Well, no. You can’t have that. She’s busy.’ And she was like, ‘OK, got it. I want Oprah.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, she can’t come here. There’s like two ferries a day,'” Slate explained. “Then I show up and I’m like a nervous Jewish lady, and she also told The Times that she didn’t really know who I was.”
The actress added that she previously gave a commencement speech at her high school, though there had been 180 students in the audience. “I could be sincere. Like, ‘Follow your dreams. Be your own best companion,’ but also be funny and be like, ‘Hey, don’t get a lizard or a bird as a pet,'” she said of her previous commencement speech experience.
Slate added that the commencement speech for Lynch could not be too “general or that specific.” She said, “You can’t just show up on an island and be like, ‘Don’t get a lizard.'”
“I really wanted to do a good job for this young lady and so I went to Cuttyhunk before the speech, and I took a walk with her,” she said.
“She’s wonderful,” Slate said of Lynch. “Also, the main fact is that she lives on an island and goes to school by herself and still has more friends than I had as a teenager.”
Watch the segment below.
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