Commencement speeches shouldn’t be confined to the recent graduates in caps and gowns. In fact, the most memorable ones have the ability to reach everyone and anyone, at any age and at any time — because these speeches are meant to inspire, encourage, and even give advice on what the speaker has learned throughout their life.
Whether you’re looking for guidance, post-grad advice, or some good laughs, look no further than these unforgettable commencement speeches.
David Foster Wallace
Wallace gave one of the best commencement speeches at Kenyon College in 2005 — so good, that it was later turned into a book, This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion About Living a Compassionate Life. The brilliant author touched on what it means to be an empathetic person, remaining conscious and aware, and made the argument that education teaches you how to think.
In 2005, Jobs gave Stanford University’s commencement speech where he emphasized the importance of finding what you love. The speech was relatively short — lasting about 15 minutes — and was divided into three stories. Each story related to the next, drawing on different obstacles and experiences that led him to be the person he was. He ends with a powerful message: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish. I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
The actress, comedian, and writer spoke to Harvard Law School’s graduating class of 2014, where she joked that the reason she was there was to find a husband. However, Kaling rocked the podium and stayed true to character (being hilarious, of course!). Not only that, her speech was honest, heartfelt, and even a bit daring. She tells the audience, “Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard graduate programs — you are entering a profession where, no matter the crime, you have to defend the alleged perpetrator. Across the campus, Harvard Business School graduates are receiving diplomas, and you will have to defend them.”
Stanford University’s 117th commencement address was delivered by none other than, Oprah Winfrey. The media mogul joked that she wanted to give all the graduates cars, but instead, each chair had two books: Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. She spoke about the meaning of money and the many definitions of wealth. “When you’re doing the work you were meant to do, it feels right — every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid.”
In 2009, Tulane University invited DeGeneres to be the keynote speaker. The TV show host highlighted the importance of being true to yourself, using her own experiences of coming out. “When I was your age, I was dating men. So what I’m saying is, when you’re older, most of you will be gay.”
xx, The FabFitFun Team