graduation speeches

Graduation Quotes

"The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself."



Who is Speaking Where? The 2014 List

graduation speechLast year I compiled one of the best 2013 Commencement Speakers List. The year went by and here I am, busy gathering data about this year's Spring Graduation invited speakers. The list is growing every day so come back and see who are the most talked about 2014 Commencement Speakers.


How to Write a Graduation Speech

This coming May, I celebrate eight years since I started collecting inspirational commencement addresses and launched the Graduation Wisdom website. This article represents a culmination of everything I learned and what I believe it takes to write a strong speech. While lighthearted, the article contains some of the best well research advice there is, with everything you will need to know from content, structure, possible themes, and delivery tips to make your commencement speech a memorable one.


Top Commencement Speeches 2013

They're here! A wonderful new 'crop' of commencement addresses with inspirational words and memorable advice. It's not easy to write and deliver a memorable commencement address. Expectations are high, the pressure is big, and these days, social media is so prompt to tax those that bore us with platitudes. Still, every year, out of over a thousand given, a few rise to the top to become the year's most notable.

graduation speeches 2013


The Most Popular Commencement Address

Soon after adding this transcript to the site it quickly went to the top and it is now the most popular speech on this site. Can you guess? I'll give you a hint, it's not Steve Job (he comes in close second). You might find it a surprise but it turns out, the man has good advice. Give it a try, watch or read the 6 rules of success.


Looking for Ideas?

This list is a good place to pick and choose the most fitting and inspirational themes. Do not forget to add personal stories or anectodes around them to make the message stick and be more powerful. Lastly, don't forget to apply them in real life. My favorite one is:

RULE # 5. Don't wait to be invited. Create opportunities and get in the game.


Giving a Graduation Speech?

Congratulations! While you prepare your speech, search for inspiration in our collection of the best commencement speeches. And don't be scared; there is great opportunity awaiting for you. 2013's top commencement speaker George Saunders and 2012's top two commencement speakers, Neil Gaiman and David McCullough Jr., all landed book deals following their outstanding commencement addresses. Good luck!


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Top Ten

View our list of top ten commencement speeches as featured in the USA TODAY's article by Mary Beth Marklein. Share them with your family, friends, and please send us your favorites.


Best Speeches: Arts

There is little surprise that writers do give some of the finest commencement speeches ever. What is surprising is that despite their talents, the number of writers asked to speak at commencement exercises seems so much smaller than say that of politicians. We are very happy with this small but growing collection of outstanding advice by authors and writers.


Advice and Lessons Learned

graduation advice


Best Speeches: Sports

A few lucky graduates get to hear speeches from coaches or talented athletes. Coaches seem to always have good advice to share with others. In this section we selected the best speeches we could find from the sports arena.


Sample Graduation Speeches

Meryl Streep, Academy Award Winning Acctress
Julianna Margulies, Academy Award Winning Acctress
Anthony Corvino, Undergraduate Student
Conan O'Brien, TV Show host
David Brooks, NYT columnist and author
Denzel Washington, Actor
Arianna Huffington, Author and syndicated columnist
Meredith Vieira, journalist and TV show host
Jonathan Youshaei, highschool graduate speaker
Ellen DeGeneres, comedian
Marissa Mayers, CEO at Yahoo Inc.


Funny Graduation Quotes

Sometimes, a funny quote is the most memorable and sure way to make an impression on the graduates. Use these funny and notable quotes on graduation cards or for your Facebook status.


Lost Commencement Speeches

In the YouTube age, quite a few of the best speeches are taped and can be shared and enjoyed by many others. Unfortunately, as little as seven years ago this was not possible and some of the most wonderful and inspirational convocation speeches have been lost and there is no online transcript available. Such is the case with a commencement speech by one my favorite authors, Joan Didion, at University of California in 1975. Luckily, one of the simply most breathtaking advice from her speech was made available in a NYT article.

"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."

- JOAN DIDION, Commencement Speech at University of California, 1975.


From the Archive

The commencement speeches archive has now reached almost 150 speeches. Back when I started this site in 2006 I used to know every speech in depth. As the years went by and more platitude-free and advice-bounty commencement addresses surfaced it's becoming harder to remember all these speeches I curate here and easy to forget some the most wonderful nuggets of wisdom they have. In this section, I will highlight a past commencement speech that I found smart and funny and some of its most memorable quotes. As always, each speech is worth reading in its entirety so if you have five minutes click on the link and read the entire transcript from actor Alan Alda given back in, yes, 1980! You will not believe how much of this advice holds true even today. That is why these speeches deserve to be remembered, to be preserved and to be shared.

"As I get older, the only thing that speeds up is time."

"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won't come in."

"The soup of civilized life is a nourishing stew but it doesn't keep bubbling on its own. Put something back in the pot as you leave for the people in line behind you."

"Don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Laugh at yourself, but don't doubt yourself. Whenever you wonder about yourself, look up at the stars swirling around in the heavens and just realize how tiny and puny they are. They're supposed to be gigantic explosions and they're just these insignificant little dots. If you step back from things far enough you realize how important and powerful you are. Be bold. Let the strength of your desire give force and moment to your every step. Move with all of yourself. When you embark for strange places don't leave any of yourself safely on shore."

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing, but what you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself. "



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