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COMMENCEMENTS
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QUOTATIONS
15 Themes & Ideas for Graduation Speeches
By Cristina Negrut
     
themes for graduation speeches

After reading scores of commencement addresses and to mark the milestone of the 100th speech on this website, I set out to summarize the 15 key rules for a happy and successful life as found in these inspirational speeches. What I realized is that we all have heard about these themes before. It's likely that you too can easily recite the things that really matter in life and what can potentially, increase one's chances of success. The spectacular thing in this list is that each one of these 15 life lessons is illustrated with stunning methaphors and witty analogies to bring the advice to life and away from the otherwise sleep-inducing commencement platitudes.

If you need to prepare a commencement speech or any other speech where you are expected to share advice, these 15 topics should be a great start. You might pick anywhere between three to five of them and, to make them more powerful, you might choose to use personal stories or anecdotes.

For more on how to structure and prepare for this task, see my new article: How to Write a Graduation Speech.

I do not want you to infer that writing a commencement address is an easy task. It is not, and in fact, that's one of the reasons why we end up describing most of the graduation speeches as being boring. But, like with anything else in life, if you put in the time and effort, if you set your mind to it and let your heart speak, if you access your enthusiasm well, and edit, and edit again, you too can create an amazing graduation speech!

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1.  Find Your Passion

You can Google for an answer. You can Google for a mate. You can Google for a career. But you can't Google to find what's in your heart, the passion that lifts you skyward. - Plumeri

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2. Get Better at Trusting Yourself and Learn to Be Bold  

Whatever blocks you encounter, you have learned that there is a way over, around or through them. It is not those obstacles that inhibit your progress but your confidence, and will to break the inertia of fear and doubt. - Smith

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3.  Do Not Let Others Define Who You Are

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. - Steve Jobs

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4.  About Those Big Dreams...       

You know, it's very simple. You can't put a large box in a small box. Well, you cannot put a full life in a small dream box. - Zerhouni

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5.  Take Initiative and Get in the Game    

Take action. Every story you've ever connected with, every leader you've ever admired, every puny little thing that you've ever accomplished is the result of taking action. You have a choice. You can either be a passive victim of circumstance or you can be the active hero of your own life. - Whitford

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6.  Be As Persistent As you Can Be and Do not Give Up       

Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying. - Dyson

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7. Learn To Fail or Fail to Learn

- Tal Ben-Shahar

In life, the things that go wrong are often the very things that lead to other things going right. - Huffington

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8.  You Do Not Need To Be Perfect

Have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect, nothing is, and no one is — and that’s OK. - Couric

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9. Use Your Imagination and Your Creativity       

Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory. Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. It is not the previously known. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. - Alda

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10.  Remind Yourself To Be Present       

It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping. So get out there and go for it, but don't be caught waiting. -Zucker

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11.  If You Think You Can, You Can       

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. - J.K. Rowling

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12. Nudge Yourself To Take More Risks       

You never know what is around the corner unless you peek... Take your risks now. - Poehler

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13.  If You Cannot Embrace Change, At Least Give It
      a Hug Once in a While
      

You know that uncertainty you feel today? It never goes away. The question is, do you know how to make uncertainty your friend? - Brooks

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14.  Work Hard and Keep Walking the Road       

Just remember, you can't climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. - Schwarzenegger

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15.  Try Selflessness and Give Back       

One day you will understand that it is harder to be kind than to be clever. - Bezos

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