After co-hosting the glamorous Met Gala in New York City earlier this week in a stunning trouser-gown dress, the celebrity human rights lawyer Amal Clooney appeared in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday to give some life advice to the graduating 22-year-olds at Vanderbilt University.
Her key message to young people in her first-ever commencement address: Be courageous.
“I think what will define you is your courage, because that is the virtue on which all others depend… When I look at the world today, I see that courage is needed more than ever,” Clooney told the 2018 Vanderbilt graduates onstage.
She continued with a long string of parallel sentences of examples, like the #MeToo movement, imprisoned journalists around the world and LGBT issues, to stress the importance of courage in this particular time.
“We need young people with the courage to say, ‘This is our world now, and there are going to be some changes,’” she said.
In more concrete terms for college graduates who face the immediate pressure to find a job, this means not being afraid of unexpected career opportunities, even if the job doesn’t pay as well as you would like.
Clooney, who has a law degree from the University of Oxford and a master’s from New York University, said she began her career as a corporate lawyer in New York earning $200,000 a year, according to a news report by Vanderbilt.
And yet, her desire to make a difference in a bigger world led her to give up that comfort for a $20,000-a-year job as a judicial clerk at a court in The Hague in the Netherlands, which shifted her career focus to human rights law.
“My advice isn’t that you have to be Gandhi or Mandela or Martin Luther King or that you should be a human rights activist or get jobs where the salary decreases at every turn,” she said. “There will be moments in your life where two roads diverge in the wood, and when that happens, be courageous.
“When you are in your rocking chair talking to your grandchildren many years from now, be sure you have a good story to tell,” she added.