Four Graduation Speeches that Inspire

Posted by

I remember little of my college graduation. I remember it feeling long and that I was pleased I could sit next to a good friend. I think my mom remembers that I didn’t seem to be paying attention during the speeches. She was most likely right. One lesson that I learned then (and am continuously learning now) is that I need to talk less and listen more. When famous people or scholars are asked to give a commencement speech, I am sure they reflect on their youth and speak about topics they would’ve liked to hear at that age. I’m sure in the coming weeks, we will hear of the best commencement speeches of May 2012. I have read two articles on this topic and I found them extremely motivational. I hope you will, too. The following are some of my favorite parts of the speeches (you can find the videos for the first three speeches here).


  1. “In the end, we are our choices.” –Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and founder, speaking at Princeton University in 2010
  2. “The next step is you’re going to have to believe in yourself potentially more than you do today.” –Sheryl Sandberg, COO, speaking at Barnard College in 2011
  3. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling, speaking at Harvard University in 2008
  4. “Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. Don't miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future. Don't be absent from your own life." – Jessica Lange, actress, speaking at Sarah Lawrence College in 2008


I encourage each of you to find a speech or quote that inspires you as you transition into this new phase of your life. If you graduated long ago but need motivation, these speeches work well. What ‘commencement speech advice’ would you give to others?


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch