4 Commencement Speakers Who Actually Told Grads What They Need to Hear

4 Commencement Speakers Who Actually Told Grads What They Need to Hear
Source: AP
Source: AP

There are commencement speeches. And then there are Commencement Speeches — the ones so staggeringly beautiful, they go viral (or in some cases, get turned into a weird pop song).

These are some of the most memorable in recent years:

Steve Jobs: Stanford University, 2005

Source: YouTube

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, his 2005 Stanford commencement speech went viral, with publications dissecting its every line.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.

Amy Poehler: Harvard University, 2011

Source: YouTube

Poehler leaned heavily on her comedy chops when addressing the Crimson Class of 2011.

All I can tell you today is what I have learned. What I have discovered as a person in this world. And that is this: You can't do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own. Okay, maybe Josh, but he's just a straight up weirdo.

You're all here today because someone gave you strength. Helped you. Held you in the palm of their hand. God, Allah, Buddha, Gaga — whomever you pray to.

President Barack Obama: Howard University, 2016

Source: YouTube

Grads of the historically black university in Washington, D.C., scored big as the recipients of one of Obama's last commencement speeches while in office.

I want you to have passion. You have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes. To bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough. It requires changes in law, changes in custom.

We can't walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can't just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were but somehow got ground down by structures that were unfair and unjust.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: University of Pennsylvania, 2016


Source: YouTube

"Your stories are essential," Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton, told this year's graduates at the University of Pennsylvania.

Don't believe me? In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system.

My dear, terrified graduates. You are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives. The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children, grandchildren and therapists. They are the temp gate and internships before you find your passion. They are the cities you live in, before the opportunity of a lifetime pops up half way across the world. They are the relationships which you hang on to for dear life, even as your shoulder cracks in protest. They are the times you say no to the good opportunities, so you can say yes to the best opportunities.

Correction: May 17, 2016
A previous version of this article used the wrong video to accompany the entry on Lin-Manuel Miranda. Additionally, the story previously misidentified the location of Miranda's 2016 commencement speech. The speech referenced in this article was at the University of Pennsylvania.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta is a culture reporter at Mic, covering news, music and entertainment. He is based in New York and can be reached at criotta@mic.com

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