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Affleck Graduation
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
Actor Ben Affleck talks to graduating senior Joe Kindregan after delivering a speech during Falls Church High School Commencement ceremonies in Fairfax, Friday, Va. June 1, 2007.
updated 6/1/2007 6:55:34 PM ET 2007-06-01T22:55:34

Ben Affleck cracked jokes about his film career during a high-school commencement speech Friday while giving a heartfelt tribute to a graduating student he befriended years ago.

Students at Falls Church High School and family members gave a standing ovation to Affleck following his commencement speech, in which he praised 19-year-old Joe Kindregan, a disabled student he met in 1998 on a film shoot. The two built a close friendship.

“Everything I learned about life that really matters ... I learned from Joe,” Affleck told the audience.

Kindregan suffers from ataxia-telengiectasia, a rare, degenerative genetic disease. Over the past decade, Affleck has helped Kindregan raise money to develop a cure for the disease.

The close nature of the pair’s friendship was evident at Friday’s ceremony; Affleck planted a kiss on Kindregan’s forehead after being introduced and later playfully swatted him with a rolled-up program.

The two met in 1998 when the Kindregans came to Dulles International Airport to watch a crew shoot the film “Forces of Nature,” which starred Affleck. The actor noticed Kindregan, then 10 years old, in his wheelchair and struck up a conversation.

Affleck jokingly explained to the 284 graduating seniors — who most likely never saw the film — that “it was very similar to another movie called ‘Citizen Kane.”’

Affleck said Kindregan has since been on the set of all of his films — “He liked being on the set of ‘Daredevil’ a lot more than being on the set of (box-office bomb) ‘Gigli.’ But he was too polite to mention it,” Affleck said.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings Kindregan introduced Affleck to the audience by saying “He is married to the cutest girl (Jennifer Garner) ... but most important he is the best friend you could ever have.” Kindregan declined to be interviewed.

Affleck, dressed in a traditional graduation gown, sat on the dais next to Kindregan and other school officials and shook hands with students who came up on stage to receive their diplomas. A few were bold enough to ask for a hug, and Affleck obliged.

“He’s a good hugger,” said graduate Melinda Wodatch. She said Affleck’s presence added to a memorable event. “I think all the kids were actually listening to his speech,” she said.

Garner attended the graduation but did not participate in the ceremonies.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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