In a commencement speech Monday to Emory University graduates, Atlanta-based entertainment mogul Tyler Perry described his long journey to success to emphasize the value of hard work.

Perry received an honorary doctor of letters degree. He focused much of his 20-minute address on having a strong work ethic, noting humorously how easily some people become successful by making videos and posting them on social media.

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Perry said it took seven years of effort — and at one point being homeless — before his first play packed large Atlanta venues like The Tabernacle and eventually the Fox Theatre.

“Your dreams will call for that kind of commitment,” Perry said. “It took an insane work ethic for me to get here. It took time and commitment and sacrificing.”

“I know how long it takes to build a dream,” he added.

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Georgia-based producer and director Tyler Perry was the keynote speaker during Emory University’s 2022 Commencement and received the honorary doctor of letters degree on Monday, May 9, 2022. Fifteen thousand people were expected to attend. (Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Georgia-based producer and director Tyler Perry was the keynote speaker during Emory University’s 2022 Commencement and received the honorary doctor of letters degree on Monday, May 9, 2022. Fifteen thousand people were expected to attend. (Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

caption arrowCaption
Georgia-based producer and director Tyler Perry was the keynote speaker during Emory University’s 2022 Commencement and received the honorary doctor of letters degree on Monday, May 9, 2022. Fifteen thousand people were expected to attend. (Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Perry also urged the graduates to find “professors” in their lives who can mentor them. Perry, 52, said he continues to search for people who can guide him.

He recalled being turned down for a job selling cars by a man who said he hadn’t completed anything at that point in his life.

“As awful as that moment was, he was a professor,” Perry said. “Any time I set out to do anything in the world, I finish it because I remember his voice.”

Emory also presented honorary degrees to longtime community volunteer Louise R. Glenn and former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, now a partner in the King & Spalding law firm.

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