Commencement speeches are not just for Millennials. As our first round-up of this graduation season’s most memorable addresses to college graduates, everyone can benefit from the insights of the distinguished speakers and outliers who share their life lessons.
Here are more words of wisdom from this year’s class of commencement speakers. (Oprah gets two quotes, because, after all, she’s Oprah)
Judith Viorst, author (Goucher College): “Don’t slouch; don’t mumble; help the needy; to thine old self be true; never give up on poetry; floss now or be sorry later; and always do what you have promised to do. Check your moles once a year with a dermatologist, order the fresh green salad instead of the fries; remember that moral behavior means doing what’s right when no one is looking, and that peeing before a long car trip is always wise. Also, it never hurts to pay a compliment; no gloating when you win, no tears in defeat; try to avoid washing dark and light laundry together. Never take credit when you haven’t earned it; change your underwear without fail, and when you’re writing your thank you notes for all those nice graduation presents you’re getting, write them by hand and send them by regular mail.”
Oprah Winfrey (Harvard University): “You will find true success and happiness if you have only one goal. There really is only one, and that is this: to fulfill the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being.”
Jim Young Kim, president of World Bank (Northeastern University): “Uncertainty means that the future is yours to shape—with the force of your will, the force of your intellect and the force of your compassion. Uncertainty is freedom. Take that freedom and run with it."
Robert Redford (Westminster College): This new generation coming forward … what you’re really basically saying is, ‘Give us the reins. Don’t tell us about the past. Don’t tell us what you did or didn’t do…Don’t bother us with that. Just give us the reins and please, step aside. And I give you all the encouragement in the world to grab those reins and run with them… Take this education and go forward with it."
Alex Kipman, National Inventor of the Year, Kinect for the Xbox (Golisano College): “Never give up on what you really want to do. The world needs you to keep dreaming ever bigger dreams. Afraid others won't get it? Vision by definition is something most people can't see. Otherwise we would not call it vision we would call it common sense. Butterflies in your stomach? Now you know you are doing it right! Embrace the fear you feel within. Make sure that as life passes you by, that you are always running towards something, and never find yourself running away from something. Believe in yourself, take the leap, and jump off the cliff. Afraid you will not survive? Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and focus on what you love.”
Michael Bloomberg (Kenyon College): I leave you with the words I tell everyone: Don't screw it up!"
John Lovett, former speechwriter for Barack Obama (Pitzer College): “There are moments when you'll have a different point of view because you're a fresh set of eyes; because you don't care how it's been done before; because you're sharp and creative; because there is another way, a better way. But there will also be moments when you have a different point of view because you're wrong, because you're 23 and you should shut up and listen to somebody who's been around the block.”
Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs biographer and CEO of the Aspen Institute (Pomona College): “It ain't about your passion; it's about being a part of something larger than yourself ... Because at the end of your days when you look back, it's not just about saying how successful you were, how many toys or trinkets or how much power you accumulated, it's about what you created, about what you did to make the world a slightly better place because you were here."
Ben Bernanke (Princeton Unviversity):
· Call your mom and dad once in awhile
· Don’t be afraid to fail
· Money isn’t everything
· Most policymakers are trying to do the right thing
· Effort matters
· Those who are luckiest also have the greatest responsibility
· Focus on becoming a better human being
· Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out
Jonathan Safran Foer, author (Middlebury College): “Each step forward in technological communication…has also made it just a little bit easier to avoid the emotional work of being present. To write ‘LOL’ rather than to actually laugh out loud; to send a crying emoji rather than actually crying; to convey information rather than humanity. It’s never been easier to say nothing.”
Mitt Romney(Southern Virginia University): “"Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets.”
Mark Kelly, astronaut (Bard College): “How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not a good indicator of how good you can become.”
Oprah: “It doesn't matter how far you might rise. At some point, you are bound to stumble because you're constantly doing what we do: raising the bar. If you're constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages—not to mention the myth of Icarus—predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
Deepak Choprah (Hartwick College):
· Become the best listener you can be
· Bond emotionally with friends, family, professional colleagues and those you interact with daily
· Expand your awareness…
· Remember the importance of action
· Assume responsibility for your own well-being….”
· Empower yourself with true self esteem
· Know your true self
Dr. Dre (University of Southern California): “Yeah, yeah, yeah, make some noise!'
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.