Michelle Yeoh Receives Honorary AFI Doctorate: ‘Telling Stories Is a Privilege None of Us Should Take for Granted’

In her commencement speech, Yeoh praised recent advancements in the film industry but stressed that "inclusion is not a destination, it is a never-ending journey."
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13: Honorary Doctorate Recipient Michelle Yeoh speaks on stage at the AFI Conservatory class of 2022 commencement ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 13, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Michelle Yeoh speaks on stage at the AFI Conservatory class of 2022 commencement ceremony
Getty Images

No need to travel through the multiverse to find a dimension where Dr. Michelle Yeoh exists. We’re already living in it.

The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star received an honorary doctorate from the American Film Institute on Sunday, with the film’s directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert on hand to present it to her at the TCL Chinese Theatre (via The Hollywood Reporter).

“You have made my mother the happiest mother in the world today,” Yeoh said after accepting the honor. “I think now she actually thinks I’m an adult with a real job. I had to keep telling her, ‘I’m not a real doctor, I don’t write prescriptions, mom.’ But she can go around telling everyone, ‘My daughter is a doctor.’”

Yeoh proceeded to speak about the massive changes she has witnessed in the entertainment industry in recent years, praising not only the increased diversity in films but also the unprecedented access to content that audiences around the world now enjoy. For filmmakers and other creators, that comes with both opportunities to make more art and the responsibility to do it in a way that makes an impact.

“We are witnessing a profound shift — greater inclusion, more diverse stories, wider access and unlimited global reach,” she said. “We have shown in our work and at the box office that we are ready for the opportunities and we deserve more. But inclusion is not a destination, it is a never-ending journey. There is always more we can do to improve our storytelling and it is up to you, the next generation of filmmakers, to keep that momentum going.”

Rather than simply praise recent advancements, Yeoh used much of her commencement speech as a call to action, encouraging the graduates to take their film careers seriously and continue to push for progress wherever they can.

“Telling stories is a privilege none of us should take for granted,” she said. “We are time travelers, world builders, change-makers. A scene you shoot on an average Tuesday may seed the dreams of a young child somewhere far away, inspire a future superstar or even begin an important conversation in our society.”

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