PALMETTO -- The moment Latin music star Marc Anthony stepped on the stage at the Bradenton Area Convention Center on Friday, electricity shot through the Ringling College of Art and Design 2013 commencement crowd like the moment before a concert.
But the actor, singer and songwriter was not at the commencement to perform salsa music.
He was there to give the commencement address and receive Ringling's highest honor, an honorary doctorate of arts degree.
He responded with a memorable from-the-heart speech that ended in tumultuous applause from the more than 400 graduates.
"This is unforgettable," said 2013 graduate Tyrell Dion Waiters, who was speaking not only of Anthony giving the main speech, but of sharing the stage with the award-winning artist.
Waiters, who grew up in Palmetto and graduated from Bayshore High School in 2007, gave the
student address Friday.
Before the graduation ceremony, Waiters was also able to present a stunned Anthony with a portrait of Anthony he created using geometric paper cuts in a shadow box.
Anthony made Waiters laugh by taking off his trademark sunglasses and holding them up to his face on the portrait.
"Funny thing was I was going to put sunglasses in the portrait," Waiters said with a grin.
Ringling President Dr. Larry R. Thompson said Anthony was chosen for the degree because he "symbolizes what it means to be a whole person, one who, at the heart of it all, offers compassion, human kindness, shares a global perspective and gives back to others."
Anthony's "Maestro Cares Foundation" helps children in developing Latin American countries, Thompson said.
Anthony has also agreed to start a "Marc Anthony Scholarship" at the college.
"I'm a fellow artist, a fellow dreamer, someone who learned their vocation by dedicating his life to it," Anthony told the crowd. "I taught myself everything there was to know about it. My appetite for it and desire to accomplish my goals were insatiable and still is. I'm someone who never quit, someone who is living the fruits of his dedication and focus. Daily. I worked hard, but I was also lucky."
He then gave a recipe for life.
"Fight your way forward," Anthony said. "Work hard. Do what you gotta do, but don't forget to live. And, by live, I don't mean party like a rock star or see how much material wealth you can acquire. I mean live. Give yourself to what you do and be true to what you love. Stay curious. Take good care of yourself. Plan on living a long time, cause it takes a long time to connect those dots and understand the beauty that life gives us."
Toward the end of his speech, Anthony told the crowd about one of his heros.
"One of my musical heroes lived a tragic life," Anthony said. "His name was Ismael Rivera. The Sonero Mayor they called him, one of the greatest improvisational singers, with a unique rhythmic style. He sang words and drum syllables together. In one of his improvisations he tossed in something that sticks in my mind. He sang, 'Pa'lante, pa'lante, como un elefante." Pa'lante means forward. Forward. You have to always move forward. ... Ringling College, Class of '13. Pa'lante, pa'lante. Muchas gracias."