Robert De Niro Earns Honorary Doctorate Degree from Bates College

Robert De Niro bows at the curtain call during the We Will Rock You 10 Year Anniversary Celebration performance on May 14, 2012 in London. Dave M. Benett/Getty

Hats off to Dr. Robert De Niro!

The actor was awarded an honorary doctorate degree of fine arts at Bates College, located in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday.

In his address, the 68-year-old star joked with the graduating class of 463 students, "With all due respect to Gwen Ifill and Bonnie Bassler, I think this is the most important piece of advice you'll get today: become a movie star." (Ifill, a journalist, and Bassler, a molecular biologist, were also receiving honorary doctorates.)

The Bangor Daily News excerpted the rest of De Niro's speech, in which he tells the whippersnappers, "Now, you might be tempted by other careers, other interests, other commitments. 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."

All joking aside, the Killer Elite star had another key message that could only come from a guy who got his start in Hollywood at the age of 20 — thus, never having a traditional and formal college experience.

"Keep an open mind, 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 said before signing off with, "Congratulations to the Class of 2012. And congratulations to myself."

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