Ah, graduation. A time in life that every student looks forward to! One thing that most colleges do is inviting a guest speaker to give a speech about their accomplishments and what is yet to come in life. Unfortunately, not many people actually remember who spoke at their graduation or even what they said! I have searched the Internet to find the college graduation speeches that moved, inspired, humored and encouraged me to live my best life, and here they are!
1.) “The Wisdom Of A Third-Grade Dropout”
I wanted to start off the list strong, and this speech left my mouth open, eyes with tears, and my heart full of hope. Rick Rigsby speaks of how he learned all of the hard lessons in life from a third-grade dropout- his father. He explained that without an education, he taught him lessons on love, loss and never giving up.
Rigsby then goes on to tell a personal story of these factors, and how his father’s words of “just keep standing” got him through his hard times. If you are going to watch one speech from this list, I would highly advise this one to leave you feeling at peace and inspired. Watch the speech here.
2.) J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Graduation Speech
The Harry Potter mastermind was the speaker in 2008 to the graduating Harvard class. After some Hogwarts references and a few laughs, she digs into what the real world will be like. She is very open in telling the crowd of the toughest parts of her life- being a single mother who was basically broke and her dream not taking off.
She then states “rock bottom became a solid foundation in which I began to rebuild my life.” Her moving speech about the importance of failure, creativity, human empathy, and friendship moved the crowd and taught all the important lessons of life. Watch the speech here.
3.) “Motivational Speech by Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven”
If you didn’t have respect for the Navy Seals, you will after watching this speech! Admiral Willian H. McRaven spoke about how right after he had graduated college, he went straight to training to become a Navy Seal. His speech was a list of lessons that he had learned during his time at training and how we should all adopt these lessons ourselves.
He had stories with lessons like always make your bed, stand your ground, and “don’t ever ring the bell”. This speech will leave you feeling like you can go out and conquer the world! Watch the speech here.
4.) Mindy Kaling’s Dartmouth Speech
Yes, the bubbly, sassy Kelly Kapoor graduated from an Ivy, proving that she’s more than just a funny, pretty face. She had the honor to come back and speak at her alma mater. While her speech was compelling and comedic, she also delivered life lessons that she has learned over the years to help the newly grads on their next journey through life.
From pancakes and plungers to letting go of life’s checklist, Kaling knocks this one out of the park! This is definitely one of the best college graduation speeches. Watch the speech here.
5.) “A Musical Journey Through The High School Experience”
Okay I know, this one is a high school graduation speech, but I just had to include it! Lance Jabr and Jeffrey Herman take us on a whimsical journey through high school complete with piano background music to set the tone because, let’s face it, background music makes everything better!
This speech is funny, light-hearted, and perfectly compares the search for the perfect college to fining your future wife. Watch the speech here.
6.) Will Ferrell USC 2017 Commencement Speech
He’s been a racecar driver, a step brother and an elf looking for Christmas spirit, but now Ferrell tackles the role of commencement speaker! His speech is the perfect combination of that classic Will Ferrell humor that we all love and important life lessons.
He designates empathy and kindness as the true signs of emotional intelligence while talking about how to define success. He tells the crowd to not listen to the critics and expresses how it is okay to “not know”.
7.) “Yale Graduate Breaks Up With Boyfriend During Speech”
Sometime you just gotta do whatcha gotta do! The couple captures the audience by the ongoing metaphor of breaking up with college is like breaking up with your boyfriend- we’ve had our fun, but it’s time to move on, they will always remember all the fun times they had together, and the ongoing question of whether she ended things to be with Andre the football star?!
8.) Denzel Washington Dillard University Graduation Speech
The “Remember the Titans” and “Malcolm X” actor spoke at the Dillard University 2015 commencement. He delivered a powerful speech on the lessons that he had learned throughout his lifetime and his career. With lessons including “fail hard”, “you can’t take it with you”, and “put God first”, his speech will inspire you to reflect on your life and how you have been living it while encouraging yourself to be better.
9.) Robert De Niro NYU Graduation Speech
The “Meet the Parents” and “Taxi Driver” legend of an actor graced NYU’s graduating class’ presence by delivering a motivational speech about the real world. He has no trouble expressing to a room full of performing arts majors that they are going to struggle in the real world because that’s show biz!
After he’s done patronizing them, he delivers advice catered towards this specific group, but anyone can take into account. Lessons like “rejection is inevitable” and “there’s always a ‘next”” carry De Niro through the speech with comedic moment of course! He’s able to pull off one of the greatest college graduation speeches.
10.) “Randy Pausch Inspires Carnegie Melon University Graduates”
In 2008, once Professor Randy Pausch came back to CMU to deliver what would have been one of his last speeches ever. Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the past year, but expressed he had lived longer than the doctors had expected.
His heartfelt speech on the subjects of things that you’ll remember, finding passion, and having respect for the people around you will tug on your heartstrings and make you think about how you are spending each day of your life, making it one of the best college graduation speeches.
I hope that these spectacular college graduation speeches have left you feeling hopeful and confident about the future!