Commencement speeches are one of the great traditions in U.S. universities and Colleges where graduates are given their last lesson before entering the real world.
Every year around this time, clusters of capped and gowned students take their place to listen to the wise words of the expert, politician, celebrity or influential leader in their field appointed as the Commencement Speech giver. Over the years, there has been some magnificent motivational and inspirational words of wisdom handed down to the latest crop of eager graduates .
We’ve gathered some of the most powerful Commencement Speeches ever given below:
1. Steve Jobs, Stanford, 2005
One of the most viewed and celebrated Commencement Speeches is Steve Jobs’ address to the Stanford graduates in 2005. The tech innovator urges the audience to pursue your dreams, see the opportunities in life’s setbacks and learn how to live before you die.
2. J.K. Rowling Speaks, Harvard, 2008
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling delivered her commencement address “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” where she discusses the power of failure and hard-won lessons while offering some powerful advice to dreamers and overachievers.
3. Conan O’Brien, Dartmouth, 2011
In 2011, Conan O’Brien gave a similar lesson to J.K. Rowling but reinforcing the concept that failure is not always a negative thing. In the video below, O’Brien discusses his biggest failure – losing “The Today Show” to Jay Leno. He recounts the disappointment of the year to follow, how he coped and what we can learn from his failure.
4. Michelle Obama, Eastern Kentucky University, 2013
In our most recent Commencement speech example, the First Lady of the United States urges students to go out and find students with different belief systems. “If you’re a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican. And if you’re a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. We know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do. We just get stuck in our ways.”
5. Will Ferrell, Harvard, 2003
Will Ferrell tops the list of top Commencement Speeches in terms of comedic value with his witty comments advising graduates to pay their taxes citing he only “took home $9,000 last year”. Ferrell also broke out in song at one point and funneled a beer Frank the Tank-style. Watch the full video here:
Not Finished University or College Yet?
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