Top Quotes From Famous Commencement Speakers

Graduation speeches are a long lived tradition meant to inspire the graduating class as they start their journey into the real world. Not only is the message that’s delivered great for grads wondering, “What do I do now that I’ve graduated?” but for all students in general!  To keep you motivated and on the road to success, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite advice recently handed off to the class of 2015 and unforgettable quotes from speeches in the past.


Barack Obama, 2015 Lake Area Technical Institute, Water Town, South Dakota 

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“Never settle; keep climbing that ladder of success as you’re doing it.  Reach back to help other strive to be the best they can be.”

Jim Carrey, 2014 Maharishi University of Management

jim carrey

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality… You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Ellen DeGeneres, 2009 Tulane University

Ellen De

“The definition of success changes. Success is to live your life with integrity and not give into peer pressure to be something you’re not. Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path; unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means, you should follow that.”


David Foster Wallace, 2005 Kenyon College

David Foster Wallace

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” and the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?.”

Mary Rudolph, 2015 Tulane University 

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“So if I must give any of you advice it would be Say Yes. Say Yes, And… and create your own destiny. So hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow.”

Conan O’Brien, 2011 Dartmouth College

Conan O'Brien

“And finally, wearing colorful Converse high-tops beneath your graduation robe is a great way to tell your classmates that this is just the first of many horrible decisions you plan to make with your life.”


Oprah, 2008 Stanford University


“And how do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? It feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know. The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead.”

Mellody Hobson, 2015 University of Southern California 

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“Love plus bravery equals happiness. Other commencement speakers will tell you to be passionate about something; I’m telling you to be passionate about someone… It took me a long time to be as brave in my personal life as I was in my professional life, and that’s because to be brave in love means opening yourself up to the possibility of heartbreak.”

Meryl Streep, 2010 Barnard College

Meryl Streep

“You know you don’t have to be famous, you just have to make your mother and father proud of you. And you already have.”

The Future

J.K. Rowling, 2008 Harvard University

British author Rowling looks towards a speaker at the 357th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University

“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.”

Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, 2015 Rutgers University

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“Just think what else is out there, what other physical or biological phenomenon is just waiting to be discovered, or invented, or thought of.  You all can do this. You all can be the Next Great Generation. You can, dare I say it, Change the World.”

Sandra Day O’Connor, 2008 Gettysburg College

Sandra Day O'Connor

“Be aware that even before you have reached your ultimate professional destination, if you always strive for excellence, you can and should have a substantial impact on the world in which you live.”

Finding Yourself

Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University

Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Amy Poehler, 2011 Harvard University

Amy Poehler

“Take your risks now. As you grow older, you become more fearful and less flexible…Limit your ‘always’ and your ‘nevers.’ Continue to share your heart with people even if it’s been broken.”

Evan Spiegel, 2015 University of Southern California – Marshall

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“You are going to make a lot of mistakes. I’ve already made a ton of them – some of them very publicly – and it will feel terrible, but it will be okay.”

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