Graduation Speeches to Remember, Forget

You are at the top of your field and you have been chosen to offer your wisdom to the graduating class of a distinguished university. All eyes are on you, everyone is awaiting the genius that is sure to originate in your brain and eloquently emerge from your mouth.

Commencement speakers react one of two ways: Either allowing the brilliance to flow or pushing out the trite babble that they have recycled from their own graduation ceremony.

Here is a sampling of both:

“I congratulate the students for being able to walk even a half a mile in this non-breathable fabric in the Williamsburg heat. I am sure the environment that now exists under your robes, are the same conditions that primordial life began on this earth.”-Jon Stewart, May 20, 2005, College of William & Mary

“But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.”-Lyndon B. Johnson, June 4, 1965, Howard University

“Today is the first day of the rest of your lives.”-Professor Greg Elliott, May 27, 2006, Macquarie University

“Turn your wounds into wisdom. You will be wounded many times in your life. You’ll make mistakes. Some people will call them failures but I have learned that failure is really God’s way of saying, “Excuse me, you’re moving in the wrong direction.” It’s just an experience, just an experience.”-Oprah Winfrey, May 30, 1997, Wellesley College

“In a world where the systems are crushing us, where many of our leaders are shadow-puppets, mouthing hypocrisies on the media stage, where centralization, big business, big government, is constantly, fascistically, gaining each day on the individual and has wiped out so much of the human spirit in this century, I think that people are the one recurrent hope we have.”-Oliver Stone, May 10, 1994, University of California-Berkeley