Timberlake’s speech was not one to be missed. Using the great words of Muhammad Ali, he encouraged “passion and love” and embracing mistakes. He inspired rethinking the word “impossible” as “temporary” and “potential.” He stressed the importance of embracing every moment. He challenged teens to be the greatest generation yet. And while I could go on and on about how great and moving and heartfelt Timberlake’s words truly were, you really shouldn’t cheat yourself. Read/watch/listen to the speech on your own. You can do all three below.
Thank you, Teen Choice. As a former teen, a while ago, who’s made a few choices along the way, I’m here to tell you that you and your choices matter. In my case, I grew up in Millington, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis, where I was blessed to be raised by parents and a family who taught me some big lessons. They taught me to respect them. They taught me to respect myself and to respect all people on the basis of their character — not where they live, not what they did for a living or the color of their skin. My parents did their best to fill my young mind not with prejudice or hate but with compassion and love. I think it’s part of the reason why, to this day, I try to live my life working closely with, making music with and spending so much of my time with an amazing group of people: male, female, straight, gay, every walk of life… People who help each other and find a common ground. I was drawn to all these people not because they look like me but because they think and feel like me. The truth is, we are all different, but that does not mean we all don’t want the same thing.
So, message to all you teens out there: I ask you to not learn from my example but from the example of all the greats that have come before me. For me, a big moment growing up was when I discovered that there was a music legend living right down the street from me, the Reverend Al Green, who taught the world a lesson that resonates now, I think, more than ever: Let’s stay together. I learned from so many music greats: Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder. I even learned a lot from the guy standing next to me onstage [points to Kobe Bryant] on how to arrive early and stay late — because that’s how you become a champion.
Speaking of great champs, I believe we can all learn from the greatest of all time, a man who grew up just 400 miles down the road from me in Louisville, Kentucky: Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali fought in the ring, but he fought for peace, too. And he became the heavyweight champion of the world because, as we all know, he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Our world lost that champ this year, so tonight, I want to share three pieces of his undying wisdom that have helped me and may help you along your journey.
No. 1, Champ said this: Don’t count the days; make the days count. Pretty good. Now, you are young, as I once was, but do not think for a moment that what you do doesn’t count. It does. Not just to you, but also to the world and your generation who will someday inherit this world from old-timers like me and Kobe.
No. 2, the Champ said this: Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth, so be generous, be kind, be fair. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the good thing to do. I think we all can agree that with all the tension in the world today that can divide us, we should be part of the solution and not part of the problem. You don’t have to make a difference on a global stage. You can volunteer in your neighborhood or in another neighborhood nearby where people might look a little different from you, and they might teach you a thing or two.
Third, and finally, here’s maybe the greatest thing a teen or anyone in this room and who’s watching on the television at home can learn from the Champ. These are words to remember when anyone tries to tell you to give up, tell you to give in because whatever you’re trying to do is impossible. The Champ said this: “Impossible” is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. Greatest quote ever.
So, as a relatively new dad and a former teen, I’m here to say you will make mistakes along the way. You will fall down. I have many times. Even Ali did. But what we do after that fall is how we make history because impossible is nothing. So don’t waste your 20s. They’re gonna be here before you know it, and they will go fast. Be nice to your parents. (I hope my son watches this one day.) They aren’t perfect, either, but they have been through this movie before, and they love you more than you can imagine. So go out, do the impossible and just go on and become the greatest generation yet. Thank you so much.
You can watch Timberlake’s entire 2016 TCA speech below.
All I can say is, JT for president in 2020, amirite?! Now that’s a man worth listening to.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.