As Writers Guild of America striking union members picketed outside Boston University’s commencement on Sunday, boos and expletives rained down on Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav when he took the stage as commencement speaker.
This was certainly a memorable commencement speech for BU grads at Nickerson Field on Sunday, with boos and chants taking over one of the most awkward commencements of all time.
“Pay your writers!” BU graduates chanted at Zaslav, the president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.
The university has been in hot water since the announcement of Zaslav as commencement speaker amid the Hollywood writers’ strike. The Writers Guild of America blasted the decision, and striking union members picketed outside the commencement.
Zaslav, a BU Law alum from 1985, is among eight Hollywood CEOs pictured on a viral list who collectively made more than $773 million in 2021, according to the writers’ guild. Zaslav took home $246 million that year, the guild posted online.
“Wow,” Zaslav said as he started his commencement speech amid the jeers from the audience. “I couldn’t be more excited to be here with all of you. It’s an incredible day.”
“I have to admit, I’m a little nervous. This is my first time giving a commencement address,” he later added.
Zaslav didn’t touch the writers’ strike during his address.
“Some people will be looking for a fight,” he said during the life advice portion of his speech as the “pay your writers” chants continued. “But don’t be the one they find it with. Focus on peoples’ good qualities.”
Zaslav told the grads to figure out what they’re good at, and what they’re not good at — and work on those things.
“Never, never, never get outworked,” he said.
“Be respectful of other people, and everything is possible,” Zaslav later added. “Respect and kindness is something that will change the way people see you. It’s an important lesson for all of you. It’s an important lesson for me.”
The boos for Zaslav at BU’s commencement was the polar opposite of the rousing standing ovation on Sunday for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She received an honorary degree from BU.