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Story highlights

Will Ferrell delivered the University of Southern California's 2017 commencement address

Ferrell gave poignant advice to the students like "trust your gut" and "don't listen to the critics"

Ferrell closed out his 25 minute speech by singing, "I Will Always Love You"

(CNN) —  

Will Ferrell dropped some serious wisdom on Friday while delivering a commencement speech that ended with a strong love ballad that would make Whitney Houston proud.

In front of large crowd of University of Southern California students, the comedian turned serious when he talked about the meaning of success.

“Now one may look at me as having great success, which I have in the strictest sense of the word,” he said. “And don’t get me wrong I love what I do and I feel so fortunate to get to entertain people. But to me my definition of success if my 16-and-a-half year marriage to my beautiful and talented wife, Vivica. Success are my three amazing sons … success to me is my involvement in the charity, Cancer For College … no matter how cliche it may sound you may never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the two signs of emotional intelligence.”

Without missing a beat, however, the jokester closed his 25-minute speech with his rendition of the classic song, “I Will Always Love You,” a love ballad made famous by Dolly Parton and the late Houston.

This moment is right up there with his 2003 Harvard commencement address where he danced his way to the stage to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.”

Moments before Ferrell took the stage to give his speech on Friday, he was awarded an honorary doctorate, an accolade he’s already using to his advantage.

“I’ve already instructed my wife and my children from this point they have to address me as Dr. Ferrell, no exceptions,” he quipped.

He kicked off the speech by saying he realized there might be a few parents in the audience who didn’t quite understand why he was the one delivering this year’s address. “I would like to apologize to all the parents who are sitting there saying, ‘Will Ferrell? Why Will Ferrell? I hate Will Ferrell! I hate his movies!’”

Ferrell graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 1990 with a degree in sports information, which he joked was discontinued 10 years after he left.

Ferrell managed to take a jab at President Trump with a joke that he had previously given a commencement address at Trump University and had yet to be compensated. “I’m still waiting to get paid by Trump University. Actually, I owe Trump University money.”

But there were other serious moments amid the levity and he offered up some poignant parting words.

“For many of you who don’t have it all figured out it’s okay, that’s the same chair that I sat in,” he said. “Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keeping throwing darts at the dart board, don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”