The 6 Most Motivational Commencement Speeches Of All Time


It happens slowly, and then all at once. The feeling of treading water while slogging through the quicksand that are pre-requisites and extra curriculars; a year full of resume builders and last minute service learning hours. “Junioritis” is quoted as “the condition of knowing that homework is important, but not wanting to do it because you’re sick of doing homework and/or group projects,” and it has completely taken over my life.

Why do I mention this? Well, because graduation season is upon us, and for a Junior like me, this means watching from the sidelines as all of my wonderfully successful friends shake hands with Presidents and strut across the stage while their parents, siblings and cousins, twelfth removed, scream some unrecognizable things to get the graduate’s attention for pictures.

While I stay in my lane and skip rocks in the limbo that is Junior year, I am not ashamed to confess that I am continuously suffering from all of the terrible symptoms of “Junioritis.”

Before the caps fly and tassels shimmy from right to left, the university provides some lasting words of wisdom to push, and metaphorically wave goodbye to all of the students that have been nesting in the halls and courtyards for four years.

Commencements are the finishing lines for graduates and the beginnings of the “real world” for all of the skills they have learned in college, but that doesn’t mean graduation is just for Seniors.

I have learned to find comfort in these commencement speeches. Whether it is the professor from the head of your program or a big time alumni/celebrity, the advice they are giving is invaluable. Because, whether you like them or not, they have made it — and to a place that you have yet to conquer and rise to.

I am the first to admit that I need a little boost from time to time and by taking their life lessons as motivation to finish college I have used commencement speeches as the impetus to get me through my final credits. And if you’re swimming in the same wading pool as me, let their words expand your mind and dreams. Revel in the suspense that is Junior year and prepare for the rush that will be the final countdown. Here is a compilation of videos that are getting me through; some of my favorites, past and present:

1. Denzel Washington’s Commencement Speech at the University of Pennsylvania, 2011.



2. Ellen Degeneres’ Commencement Speech at Tulane, 2009.


Life is like a one big Mardi Gras but instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain, and if they like what they see you’ll have more beads than you’ll know what do with.

3. Oprah Winfrey’s Commencement Speech at Harvard, 2013.


You will find true success and happiness if you have only one goal. There really is only one, and that is this: To fulfill the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being. You want to max out your humanity by using your energy to lift yourself up, your family, and the people around you.

4. J.K. Rowling’s Commencement Speech at Harvard, 2008.


We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

5. Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford, 2005.


Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

6. Jay Leno’s Commencement Speech at Emerson, 2014.


Anybody can have a life, careers are hard to come by.