Congratulations class of 2017! We've made a list of our favorite college commencement speeches this year, and we hope that you gain some inspiration from these wise words. Enjoy!
Mark Zuckerberg - Harvard University
“You are part of something bigger than yourself. Purpose creates true happiness… [We must] redefine our idea of equality so everyone has the freedom to fulfill their purpose...We need a society that is less focused on locking us up and stigmatizing us when we do. We need a society more focused on providing continuous education through our lives.”
Will Ferrell - University of Southern California
“No matter how cliché it may sound you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence...To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do with your life, congratulations. For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay...Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”
Oprah Winfrey - Agnes Scott College
“You’re nothing if you’re not the truth...I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life – I’ve made a fortune, really...from being true to myself. If I can leave you with any message today: The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good, [but]...Those of you who have a lot of shoes know having a closet full of shoes doesn’t fill up your life. Living a life of substance can. Substance through your service.”
Sheryl Sandberg - Virginia Tech
"The most important thing I learned is that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is a muscle, and that means we can build it. We build resilience into ourselves. We build resilience into the people we love. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called “collective resilience.” It’s an incredibly powerful force — and it’s one that our country and our world need a lot more of right about now. It is in our relationships with each other that we find our will to live, our capacity to love, and our ability to bring change into this world."
Michael Bloomberg - Villanova University
"Today, patriotism doesn’t require us to endure starvation or extreme deprivation. But it does require us to have the courage to do not what is easy but what is hard. What does that mean? Well, it means having the courage to keep studying new subjects throughout your life, to listen to those on the other side of an argument with an open mind — instead of retreating into safe spaces. It means having the courage to re-examine your beliefs when data and science contradict them."
Helen Mirren - Tulane University
“The trick is to listen to your instinct, grab the opportunity when it presents itself and then give it your all. You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day, but it's really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever. They both pass and a new day arrives. Just try to make that new day count.”
Fareed Zakaria - Bucknell University
“When you go on in your lives and you find yourselves in positions of some authority or decision-making, the most dangerous thing you will find is the ability to not imagine that things could go wrong. That your course of action could be the wrong one. And so the most important skill you need is to ask yourself, what am I not seeing?...It is the greatest danger I think you will face over the course of your lives – this ability to close yourselves off into some kind of bubble where you don’t contemplate the possibility that you are wrong.”
Adam Grant - Utah State University
"Grit doesn't mean 'keep doing the thing that's failing.’ It means 'define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail.'...Sometimes resilience comes from gritting your teeth and packing your bags. Other times it comes from having the courage to admit your flaws.”
Stephanie Ruhle - Lehigh University
“We’ve become really attached to these big ideas and labels — Republican, Democrat, feminist, Alpha Chi Omega, mountain hawk, engineer. We use these labels to find our tribes, get comfortable, and stick with them, and it is suffocating. Open your mind...Open your hearts, even just a little. Just because something doesn’t confirm your existing beliefs does not mean it’s a hoax. The smartest and most successful people I know are constantly evolving, always learning. It does not end with school.”
Octavia Spencer - Kent State University
“Remember, no one came here the same way, and you won’t all achieve success the same way...don’t let yourself get caught up in the trap of comparison. You know what I’m talking about. Ignore the stilly 30-Under-30 list that the internet throws at you before you’ve even had your morning cup of coffee. Those will be the bane of your existence post-graduation, trust me. Trust me. Comparing yourself to other’s success only slows you down from finding your own.”