Nine time Emmy Award-winning producer, co-creator and executive producer of “Modern Family,” Steven Levitan didn’t want to give “cliché advice” to this year’s graduating class.
As the largest graduating class in the history of University of Wisconsin, around 6,300 graduating students and 42,000 spectators gathered at Camp Randall to listen to Levitan give five pieces of advice that he has learned since graduating from UW in 1984.
Instead of cliché advice, Levitan said graduates should take chances early in life, succeed or fail on their own terms, not give up after failing numerous times, be calm in a crisis and live up to their potential by loving what they do.
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Chancellor Rebecca Blank also gave her parting words, and reminded students that graduating from one of the top 25 institutions in the world wouldn’t have been possible without the help of family and friends.
To be successful, Blank said graduates must serve a larger cause. To do this, she said they should ask the right questions and take risks.
In his speech, Levitan shared some of the risks he took on during his journey from Badger to Emmy Award-winning executive producer.
Levitan’s career started as a TV news reporter in Madison until he realized he wanted to work in the television and sitcom industry. He said he took this chance when he was young because he “refused to play it safe.”
Levitan said graduates should do the same.
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Eight of the shows Levitan pitched were all cancelled after one season or never picked up in the first place. Despite the setbacks, Levitan said he got together with a friend and “failed once more.”
After this ninth and final failure, he and his friend created the award-winning show “Modern Family.”
“We took everything we learned from our few successes and many failures and wrote what we knew best,” Levitan said. “And finally, it worked. Now, gratefully, I’m introduced as the co-creator of Emmy-winning ‘Modern Family’ and no one remembers I’m the idiot who failed nine times in a row.”
If he had settled for a job that he had no interest in which he showed little interest, Levitan said he would’ve succumbed to mediocrity. But, because he loves what he does, he said he gives it his all.
Levitan concluded his speech by wishing graduates happiness, confidence and self-satisfaction from “leaving nothing on the table.”
“Don’t sit back and wait for good things to happen, make them happen,” Levitan said. “Shake off your past limitations and be the best version of yourself. Live up to your potential.”