"What others say about you means nothing," he tells Virginia high school graduates

By Wendy Grossman
Updated June 01, 2007 09:00 PM

Ben Affleck told high school graduates Friday he was an unlikely person to give them advice – then gave it anyway.

“I haven’t been in space, I’m not a politician, I’m not a super hero – I’m not even a gangster,” he said at the commencement for Falls Church High School, near Washington, D.C. “I’ve only pretended to be all of those – in some cases just barely.”

The actor – the subject of much media coverage – told the seniors: “What others say about you means nothing. What you say about you means everything. Your job is to make other people see you as you are.”

Affleck, 34, wearing graduation garb, was introduced by his friend Joe Kindregan, 19, a Falls Church High graduate whom Affleck met about 10 years ago when Kindregan visited the set of Forces of Nature. The teen-ager has ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare, degenerative disease. The Make-a-Wish Foundation flew him to the movie’s premiere.

Kindregan described Affleck as an award-winning writer and actor “married to the cutest girl. … But most importantly, he’s the best friend you could ever have.”

Affleck turned to the teen. “You’re right about my wife,” he said. Jennifer Garner, 35, was seated in the front row during the ceremony.

Paying tribute to Kindregan, Affleck said, “I’m here because what I learned about the distance between how you see someone and who they are, I didn’t learn in Hollywood, I learned from a classmate of yours, my friend, Joe Kindregan.”

He also joked that after the students received their diplomas, they’d have the same number of degress he does.

“We will be tied,” he said. “I’m sure many of you could teach me quite a bit. In fact, I’m sure many of you could school me on that Smarter than a Fifth Grader show.”