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Friday, April 26, 2013

MATT DAMON x HARVARD ARTS FIRST FESTIVAL

President Drew Faust (right) gives a well-researched and sensitive speech congratulating Damon on his numerous achievements as both an actor and an individual in Sanders Theater. John Lithgow, Master of the Arts at Harvard (left), had just interviewed Damon.
Damon is honored with the Harvard Arts Medal!

The Arts First Festival is an annual four-day celebration of the arts at Harvard, filled with exhibitions, music performances, and guest speakers, and featuring the work of over 2,000 students from both the college as well as the graduate schools. This year, the guest of honor (and proud recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal) was none other than famed actor Matt Damon '92, former English concentrator, freshman at Matthews Hall, and resident of Lowell House.

Damon has starred in both critically and popularly acclaimed films, such as Good Will Hunting (1997), The Departed (2006), as well as the Bourne and Ocean's trilogies. Most impressively, unlike many of his contemporaries, he has singlehandedly avoided three pitfalls commonly faced by actors: the first being typecasting (in which an actor is consistently cast in similar roles), the second being the occasional cinematic flop, and the last being arrogance. Despite enjoying what Lithgow bemusedly called a "charmed career", Damon has remained steadfastly humble, level-headed, and most importantly, true to himself. With a unique poise and endearingly self-deprecating and sarcastic sense of humor, he shared his life story with an enraptured audience: how he knew he wanted to be an actor ever since he was young; his mother and his teachers, the figures that most shaped his personal development; and his time at Harvard and beyond. He also spoke about his experiences writing Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck, as well as his non-profit organization, H2O Africa (now known as water.org), which has successfully provided clean drinking water to thousands of people in third-world countries.

In his closing remarks, Matt left us with a request that was at once poignant and sobering. "I am incredibly proud to have come from this place," he said, gesturing to the lofty and mahogany-furnished hall in front of him. "Each and every one of you will leave here and achieve greatness and become the decision makers of the world. But I urge you to retain your humanity; because no amount of money can buy a good night's sleep."

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