The graduation season means a lot more than togas, caps, and photos flooding every social media universe in existence. It also signifies a fresh start with new relationships, interactions, and a whole new environment.
These transitory periods of life can be pretty rickety as it is full of chances and pitfalls for its building blocks. Drafting in a blueprint for the future may seem like a necessity, since more often than not, the first steps to the right direction won’t fall into place and might leave you stumbling for a way back to your comfort zone.
So, whether you’re moving up from high school or preparing for a life of being a young professional in your own right, it wouldn’t hurt to hear from 20 of the best commencement speeches to support you in kick starting what may be the best years of your life.
1. Ana Kristina Arce (magna cum laude), De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (2009)
Magna cum laude graduate Ana Kristina Arce shares a heartfelt message of hope to the world in her commencement speech despite her disability; she is hearing impaired. Heaving of perseverance and passion, Ana’s words resound of fair chances and multitudinous possibilities.
Our favorite line:“Please allow us to show you what we can do. Please believe in us, too. Let us prove to you that, yes, the Deaf can!”
2. Winnie Monsod, last Econ lecture (2010)
Professor Solita Monsod, otherwise known as Winnie Monsod, delivered a moving piece of lecture on the class of 2010’s last Econ session. With sole focus on excellence, Professor Monsod told examples of why it is significant not to focus on honor and integrity.
Our favorite line: “Can you assure me that, as a leader, you are going to, right now, until you finish your courses, are you going to act with honor and dignity?”
3. Lourd de Veyra, UP College of Mass Communication (2012)
Palanca Award-winning writer Lourd de Veyra’s graduation address at the UP College of Mass Communication was rather unconventional and witty, donned with clear messages of life’s unannounced changes and dancing along with its every curve.
Our favorite line: “Sa dancing lesson, wala kang ibang puwedeng gawin kundi sumunod. Pag hinila ka dito, sunod ka na lang.”
4. Lisa Macuja Elizalde, Ateneo de Manila University (2015)
Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja-Elizalde gave a commencement address with eight lessons inspired by the “eight counts” of ballet. One of them was common, “No pain, no gain.” It was what she said after that will truly inspire you.
Our favorite line: “Nothing can take the place of hard work–not even talent.”
5. Steve Jobs, Stanford University (2005)
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs talked about not living by dogma in his discourse at Stanford University. It was an entertaining, if not great altogether, lesson on following your intuition and curiosity. The speech is peppered with quotable quotes—”you have to trust the dots will connect in the future” and “sometimes life hits you with a brick. Don’t lose faith” and “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Our favorite line: “Don’t let the noise of others drown out your inner voice.”
6. JK Rowling, Harvard University (2008)
A message on failure, imagination, and empathy was delivered by JK Rowling at the Harvard University’s commencement exercises nine years ago. It was inspirational through and through.
Our favorite line: “We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
7. Ellen DeGeneres,Tulane University (2009)
Ever the comic, Ellen DeGeneres’ talk at the Tulane University’s graduation exercises casually sat out to be like a stand-up routine flowing with tales of struggle and success. The whole speech glowed but below is the line we couldn’t forget.
Our favorite line: “For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something you are not; to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way.”
8. Lisa Kudrow, Vassar College (2010)
Possessing a biology degree from Vassar College, actress Lisa Kudrow explained how she went on and nudged all of the hurdles in her major career change. Various anecdotes of failing and opportunities were credited throughout her speech.
Our favorite line: “Thank God, I got fired!”
9. Jeff Bezos, Princeton University (2010)
One of the most inspirational speeches ever delivered was of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ at Princeton University. Bezos shared motivational words on the difference of gifts and choices.
Our favorite line: “Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy—they are given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be the detriment of your choices.”
10. Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania (2011)
Currently making rounds on social media, Denzel Washington’s address at the University of Pennsylvania gives a powerful message of turning failures into the biggest assets.
Our favorite line: “When you fall, fall forward.”
11. Arianna Huffington, Sarah Lawrence College (2011)
Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington expounded on the realities of a split screen world. Huffington’s note on not letting in doubt and fear get over the best of us has been heard all over the world.
Our favorite line: “So as you are leaving this beautiful campus behind, please don’t wait for leaders on a white horse to save us. Instead turn to the leader in the mirror. Tap into your own leadership potential because the world desperately needs you.”
12. Conan O’Brien, Dartmouth College (2011)
Television host Conan O’Brien shared his wisdom on the 2011 commencement ceremony of Dartmouth College with utmost honesty and hope to impart advice on crushing roadblocks life may throw along the way.
Our favorite line: “There are a few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fears realized.”
13. Steve Carell, Princeton University (2012)
Steve Carell drove people laughing at his Princeton University remarks chockfull of comedic lines, and “some helpful hints.”
Our favorite line: “Show up on time, because to be late is to show disrespect.”
14. Michelle Obama, Eastern Kentucky University (2013)
Former first lady Michelle Obama’s Eastern Kentucky University address is wonderfully graced with talks of values, appreciation, and celebration.
Our favorite line: “So, graduates, make no mistake—you can go anywhere you choose. So be proud, and never, ever doubt yourselves. Walk boldly on that road ahead, no matter where it takes you. And please spread those values everywhere you go. We need it more than ever before.”
15. Jim Carrey, Mararsihi University of Management (2014)
Dwelling on self-worth, achievements, and self-realization, Jim Carrey’s speech three years ago at the Mararishi University of Management prompts to tell us to seek our chances for a fuller life.
Our favorite line: “Risk being seen in all your glory.”
16. Admiral William H. McRaven, University of Texas at Austin (2014)
Ninth commander of US Special Operations Command Admiral William McRaven’s speech for the university-wide graduation exercises at The University of Texas has blessed us with stellar lessons for both life and business.
Our favorite line: “If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”
17. Maya Rudolph, Tulane University (2015)
Maya Rudolph’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner while channeling one of her favorite Saturday Night Live (SNL) characters—Beyoncé—will be the most unforgettable thing about her dispatch to the 2015 graduates of Tulane University in 2015.
Our favorite line: “Create your own destiny.”
18. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at Wellesley College (2015)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sends off the Wellesley graduates with a flawless talk on women empowerment, feminism, and even love advice.
Our favorite line: “Your standardized ideologies will not always fit into your life, because life is messy.”
19. Sheryl Sandberg, UC Berkeley (2016)
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg conveyed a heartwarming speech of overcoming adversity while facing the void of loss and tragedy at UC Berkeley last year.
Our favorite line: “The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It’s the hard days—the days that challenge you to your core—that will determine who you are.”
20. John Green, Kenyon College (2016)
Renowned author John Green’s Kenyon College commencement speech speaks volumes on the subjects of listening, appreciation, and love.
Our favorite line: “Love is not like mass or energy—it is not conserved…you will forget a lot but you will not forget the kindness and generosity of those who were kinder and more generous than they needed to be.”
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