Words of Wisdom: 5 Awesome Commencement Speeches

Meant to inspire, encourage and usher you confidently into the next chapter of your life, a commencement speech can either make or break your graduation ceremony. Just in case your commencement address wasn’t all-inspiring, here are five of my favourite commencement speeches that are sure to put you into post-grad action mode.

1. J.K Rowling’s 2008 Commencement speech at Harvard University.

If this doesn’t give you a kick in the pants to get going, I don’t think anything will.

This speech, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” tops my list. Rowling talks about her parent’s expectations, who were poor themselves and hoped Rowling would undertake a vocational degree. All Rowling wanted to do was write novels; as we all know she has managed to pay the bills doing so.

Line to remember: “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.”

2. Winston Churchill at Harrow School in 1941.

Like J.K. Rowling, Churchill speaks about the value of failure and importance of imagination. His speech likens graduating college to entering a battlefield; I think we can all relate to that.

Line to remember: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

3. Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it seems no one knows this better than Steve Jobs who dropped out of college, got fired from Apple and very nearly died from pancreatic cancer. With over four million views on YouTube, this is one of the most popular.

Line To Remember : “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”

4. Randy Pausch at Carnegie Melon University.

After being told he had pancreatic cancer and only three to six months left to live, Randy Pausch delivered this short commencement speech nine months into his diagnosis (after his “Last Lecture”). Pausch talks about taking opportunities, finding your passion, living fully and moving on from mistakes

Line To Remember: “The more things and the more money you have, the more you will just look around and use that as the metric — and there will always be someone with more. Your passion must come from the things that fuel you from the inside. That passion will be grounded in people.”

5. Anthony Corvino at Binghamton University.

Chosen to give his class commencement address because he was an average university student, Anthony Corvino has scored nearly 200,000 views on YouTube preaching the average university student. The above speeches are certainly inspirational and exciting, but we’re not all going to become the next Steve Jobs or J.K. Rowling. Corvino reminds us that teachers, tutors and moms and dads are average, but amazing.

Line To Remember: “Average is knowing that your don’t receive respect; you earn it. You aren’t given opportunity; you fight for it, and if anyone tries to tell you different, they are lying.”

What do you remember of your class commencement address? Please comment and share!

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  • By Words of Wisdom | the world fascinates me on May 27, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    […] case your class commencement address was less than inspiring, here is a quick read of five awesome commencement speeches that will put you into post-grad action […]

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