Graduation Speeches

Every year, I like to read snippets from graduation speeches around the country and the world. I usually find words of wisdom (and sometimes very funny comments) that make me think. I don’t remember who spoke at my graduations nor a word of what was said. With graduation season upon us, I hope the messages for this year’s graduates are paying more attention, but I doubt it. Years from now, they may read about something profound that was said at their graduation, but at the time of their commencement ceremony, they’ll be more focused on celebrating the end of their college era and looking forward to embarking on their careers.

Looking back, here are some of the best from 2015 as reported in the June 14, 2015 New York Times:

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple spoke at George Washington University, and said: “Great progress is possible, whatever line of work you choose. There will always be cynics and critics on the sidelines tearing people down, and just as harmful are those people with good intentions who make no contribution at all. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote that our society needed to repent not merely for the hateful words of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people.”

“The sidelines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena. There are problems that need to be solved. Injustices that need to be ended. People that are still being persecuted. Diseases still in need of cure. No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy. Your passion. Your impatience with progress. Don’t shrink from risk. And tune out those critics and cynics. History rarely yields to one person, but think, and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.”

Katie Couric, Global New Anchor for Yahoo, spoke at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and said “Don’t wait forever to find your bliss or you may find yourself at 20 living your parents’ basement, eating microwave popcorn and binge-watching reruns of The OC. While it might be nice to have your mom or dad make your favorite casserole or do your laundry, don’t wait too long to get going… Don’t drift you way through your 20’s. Use every stop along the way as a chance to make an investment in the person you want to become.”

Joseph R. Biden, Vice President, spoke at Yale University and said, “For your generation, there’s an incredible amount of pressure on all of you to succeed, particularly now that you have accomplished so much…”But, resist that temptation to rationalize what others view is the right choice for you, instead of what you feel in your gut is the right choice. That’s your North Star. Trust it. Follow it. You’re incredible group of young women and men.”

These are words to live by and while it’s been a few years since I graduated, I find that these words inspire me to do good things and I hope you feel the same way!


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