Mark Ruffalo speaks at 2016 Ringling College Commencement.
Actor, filmmaker, and activist Mark Ruffalo inspires at 2016 Commencement.

We’ve all seen Mark Ruffalo, in some form or another on screen. Whether his name is synonymous with his characters from The Avengers, 13 Going on 30, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Spotlight, or The Normal Heart, we all have an association with the globally recognized and award-winning celebrity. After all, he is a three-time Oscar nominee, two-time Golden Globe nominee, and winner of a 2014 Primetime Emmy.

But when he stood before the Ringling College students, faculty, staff, and friends as the 2016 Commencement speaker, he introduced us to someone new: Mark Ruffalo the father, husband, and global citizen.

Ruffalo quickly set the stage: he was humbled, honored, nervous—and completely out of his element. He described himself as better when acting and speaking someone else’s words and confessed to consulting his wife and daughter for help writing his commencement address. What should he say? What can he offer?

Sage advice came from his 11 year-old daughter: “You change the way you look a lot. Now go out and change the world!”

Working, successful artists such as Ruffalo have a lot to teach new Ringling graduates—about expectations, creative problem solving, and adapting to life after school. But Ruffalo took his daughter’s approach, and he nailed it: creatives are empowered and charged with the responsibility to make change by creating work with value.

A tireless activist himself, he challenged the emerging artists and designers in the room to focus on the community and make a difference. And man, was he preaching to the choir. Ruffalo’s genuine, unfiltered passion leapt off stage and rippled through the crowd of nearly 300 graduates, along with their families, friends, faculty, and staff. His heartfelt words were met with and amplified by the unbridled enthusiasm and inspiration of this year’s cohort of new creatives, ready to make their mark.

Ruffalo accepted his Ringling College honorary degree from Dr. Larry R. Thompson, President of the College, with humor, remarking, “Dr. Banner, meet Dr. Ruffalo.” All jokes aside, his message was crystal clear: use your creative powers for good and success will follow.

To read more about 2016 Commencement, check out our blog post.