Commencement 2018: Advice, inspiration, and humor!

Commencement speeches are full of advice and encouragement, and this year’s speakers are certainly doing their best to inspire graduating classes across the land. Here are excerpts from a few speeches, because let’s face it: Whether we graduated 30 years ago or yesterday, we can all use a little boost every now and then!

Jimmy Fallon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

“When you think of commencement speakers, you think of people who are inspirational. People who are eloquent. People who have changed the world. When you think of high school students, you think of people who are a little immature, slightly awkward, still learning to be adults. Welcome to Opposite Day.”

“Every bad experience can have something good that comes out of it. Sometimes things that seem like setbacks can take our lives in a new direction…make us better and stronger. You have already proved that to everyone. You took something horrific. Instead of letting it stop you, you created a movement…The whole world has heard your voice, and that was you making a choice. That was you choosing hope over fear.”

“Take good care of yourself. Check in with yourself every day. Put your phone down for a moment or two. And be kind…Write letters and send them with a stamp in a mailbox. One last piece of advice: Don’t ever get off your parents’ wireless plan. Ride that train as long as possible.”

Retired soccer player Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, six-time U.S. Soccer  Athlete of the Year and FIFA Women’s World cup champion, at Barnard College:

“Doesn’t it feel like the second you figure anything out in life, you’re forced to start all over again? Experts call these times of life transitions. I call them terrifying.”

“Make failure your fuel. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, reject it, end up wasting it. Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be powered by. It’s the highest-octane fuel your body can run on. Failure is fuel. Fuel is power.”

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, at Johns Hopkins University:

“Get proximate to people who are suffering…. We change the world when we choose not to isolate ourselves.”

“Change some of the narratives that are out there. We cannot be a people who are willing to be governed by fear and anger. Fear and anger are the essential ingredients of injustice and oppression and inequality.”

“Stay hopeful. I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists.”

ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

“You are the generation who will have your voices heard. I see it in the faces of the young people who are on the news every night. Who are taking a stand. Who want to make their communities more connected, not divided.”

“One of the great byproducts of this really tumultuous time in our country is the generation sitting right here before me, more engaged than ever.”

Oprah Winfrey at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism:

“Everybody’s meeting hysteria with more hysteria. What I’ve learned all these years, we’re not supposed to match it or even get locked into pushing against it. We’re supposed to see this moment in time for what it is. We’re supposed to see it and then transcend it. That is how you overcome hysteria. Use this moment to encourage you, to embolden you.”

“I believe you have to declare war on cynicism. That little creature will cloud your clarity, compromise your integrity, lower your standards. It will choke your empathy, and sooner or later, cynicism will shatter your faith….The question is, what are you willing to stand for?”

At Miami University of Ohio, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ Brandon Brooks (a Class of 2011 Miami U. grad) revealed his own struggles with perfectionism:

“I have an anxiety disorder. I demand perfection for myself…I came to a crossroads where I had to make a decision. I would either cave under the pressure or get help, persevere, and rise to the occasion. I chose the latter because there are no diamonds without pressure.”

“Truth be told, today, I’m feeling a little anxious, but I’ve learned through therapy to not worry or care about making a mistake. Why? Because the best thing about life is that it goes on.”

Actress, producer, and writer Mindy Kaling, a 2001 graduate of Dartmouth College, at Dartmouth:

“I remember the days here when it was so cold your sneeze would become an ice sculpture before it hit the ground. In Los Angeles where I live now, if I sneeze I just call my doctor and have my blood replaced with that of a teen-aged track star.”

“Delete ‘Proficient at Microsoft Word’ from your résumés. That is ridiculous. This is how you become proficient at Word: You open Word on your computer.”

“Don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order, or if you don’t do some things at all. I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today. But hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“If you have a checklist, good for you. Structure and ambition can sometimes be motivating. But also feel free to let It go. Yes, my culminating advice is a song from the animated Disney movie ‘Frozen.’”

Want more? Check out “The Best Celebrity Commencement Speeches of 2018 (So Far).”

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