A Commencement Speech for Everyone

At the end of your senior year, whether in high school or college, you have the opportunity to listen to a commencement speaker inspire you to make an impression on the world and be the best you can be. But why do we direct these words to seniors? Don’t freshmen, sophomores, and juniors have equal opportunities to change not only after school, but also during?

We definitely think so, and we’ve collected some wonderful quotes from commencement speeches around the country that we think will inspire everyone.

“In the next few years, you’re going to be getting a lot of advice. A lot of you are going to be dealing with parents and family that have your future all mapped out in their minds, and it may not have anything to do with who you are and what you want. In fact, your parents may seem not to know you at all, but you know what? Maybe they do. Possibly, they can see things in you that you can’t see in yourself. And they have the experience of having been on the planet longer than you. They’ve seen more of what can go wrong. So here’s another really fabulous tip:


Callie Khourie, Sweet Briar College 1994

“Life has a very simple plot: first you’re here and then you’re not…. So waste it wisely. …DON’T BE AFRAID TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Uncertainty is the atomic principle on which we’re all organized.”

Eric Idle, Whitman College 2013

“LIFE IS AN IMPROVISATION. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.”

Stephen Colbert, Northwestern University 2011

“So if you ask what the future holds, I don’t know because I don’t know what you will do. And it really is up to you to decide what you are going to do. But you will do something because IN EVERY SMALL WAY THAT YOU ACT, you act as productive economic beings, as moral beings, as social beings, and in all those actions, when collected together YOU CHANGE HISTORY.”

Fareed Zakaria, Bates College 2014

In need of more inspiration? Check out NPR’s list of The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.