After receiving her honorary doctorate of fine arts from New York University on Wednesday, Taylor Swift gave a speech where she addressed the class of 2022 about being cringe, getting canceled, and now being a doctor.
Some Swift fans wondered if the musician would address the topic of abortion rights in light of the Supreme Court's likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but Swift's speech was completely apolitical — even if "f*ck the patriarchy" keychains are still for sale in her merch store.
While Swift has spent her illustrious career largely staying away from politics, 2018 saw her break her silence by endorsing Democratic candidates in Tennessee's midterm elections, leading many to wonder if this would be the start of Swift's political awakening.
But even though Swift has been vocal in the past about women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and gun violence issues, and has even called out former president Donald Trump for "stoking the fires of white supremacy," she steered clear of politics in her commencement speech on Wednesday that was delivered amid a barrage of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion laws being passed across the country, as well four days after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo allegedly carried out by a white supremacist.
In her nearly 25-minute speech, Swift mostly talked about the lessons she had learned from growing up under the watchful eye of millions, and how she feared making any mistakes because of the close attention paid to both her music career and her personal relationships.
She started out her speech by joking that she was 90% sure the main reason she was there is because she has a song called "22," which tied in nicely with the class of 2022.
"I would like to thank NYU for making me, technically, on paper at least, a doctor,” Swift joked. "Not the type of doctor you would want around in case of an emergency, unless your specific emergency was that you desperately needed to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section, or if your emergency was that you needed a person who can name over 50 breeds of cats in one minute.”
She went on to give "life hacks," telling the audience that, "life can be heavy but especially if you try to carry it all at once."
"You can’t carry all things, all grudges, all updates on your ex, all enviable promotions your school bully got at the hedge fund his uncle started. Decide what is yours to hold and let the rest go," Swift said. "One toxic relationship can outweigh so many wonderful, simple joys."
She also poked fun at her fashion choices in 2012, saying she dressed like a "'50s housewife" and urged the crowd to accept "being cringe."
"Learn to live alongside cringe," Swift said. "No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively."
Swift also called out the stigma against "eagerness," given how throughout her career, she has been frequently mocked for her enthusiastic dancing and her surprised expressions at getting praise or winning awards.
"Never be ashamed of trying," Swift told the audience. "Effortlessness is a myth. The people who wanted it the least were the ones I wanted to date and be friends with in high school. The people who want it the most are the people I now hire to work for my company."
She also said that when she became famous as a teenager, people were always warning her about going off the rails, leading her to believe that if she made any mistakes, she was a failure.
"I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn't make any mistakes, all the children of America would grow up to be perfect angels," she said. "However, if I did slip up, the entire earth would fall off its axis and it would be entirely my fault and I would go to pop star jail forever and ever."
Swift also invoked cancel culture in an apparent reference to her public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian that prompted her to go into hiding in 2016, saying, "Getting canceled on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me an excellent knowledge of all the types of wine."
She ended her speech by telling the graduates "breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out."
"And I’m a doctor now, so I know how breathing works," she said.