On graduation day, there’s so much to look forward to – getting dressed up, celebrating with all of your peers, receiving awards, and the most important part of all, holding your diploma in your hands for the first time. And with the experience, you get the added joy of a carefully-crafted commencement speech full of lovely wisdom from someone who learned an important lesson along the way.
So we thought we’d share some of our favorite pieces of advice from commencement speeches. Whether you’re watching this during graduation season or another time in the year, take this as an opportunity to kick back and be inspired.
1. Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University 2009
“It was important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is – to be true to yourself. And ultimately that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear, I’m free, I have no secrets, and I know I’ll always be okay because no matter what, I know who I am… Be true to yourself and everything will be fine.”
– Ellen DeGeneres,
Comedian, writer, activist
2. Conan O’Brien, Dartmouth College 2011
“Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality. Many of you here today are getting your diploma at this Ivy League school because you have committed yourself to a dream and worked hard to achieve it. And there is no greater cliché in a commencement address than ‘follow your dream.’ Well, I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change. And that’s okay.”
– Conan O’Brien,
Writer, host, comedian
3. Glenn Close, The College of William and Mary 2019
“Your perspective is unique. It’s important and it counts. Try not to compare it to anyone else. Accept it. Believe in it. Nurture it. Stay fiercely, joyously connected to the friends you have made here, to those you love and trust. You will have each other’s backs for the rest of your lives.
– Glenn Close,
Actress, singer, producer
4. Madeleine Albright, Wellesley College 2007
“I do hope that when you accept your diplomas, you will be so determined to live life boldly, with largeness of spirit and generosity of heart. . . I hope you will each embrace the faith that every challenge surmounted by your energy; every problem solved by your wisdom; every soul awakened by your passion; and every barrier to justice brought down by your determination will ennoble your own lives, inspire others, and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.”
– Madeleine Albright