3 of My Favorite Commencement Speeches

PART OF PROPOSITION 1: BE INSPIRED

Commencement speeches are given to college graduates as they transition into the next phase of the rest of their lives. Their main purpose is to inspire. 

3 of My Favorite Commencement Speeches

In this post, I share inspirational commencement speeches from leaders in the world of business, literature and comedy.

Stanford Class of 2005

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs delivered the commencement to the Stanford graduating class of 2005.

In it, he tells three stories with three simple, important messages.

The first message is about connecting the dots.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.

So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Jobs advised that this approach never let him down and made all the difference in his life.

His second message is about love and loss.

Find something you love to do and commit everything you can to it.

The third message is about death and his initial battle with pancreatic cancer.

Wake up every day and ask yourself, “If today is the last day of my life would I want to do what I am going to do today?”

If the answer is no too many days in a row, something needs to change.

Immortality is the most powerful motivator.

Each message is accompanied by stories of how they impacted Jobs’s life.

It is one of the best speeches from one of business’s most inspirational speakers.

Harvard Class of 2008

J.K. Rowling

Rowling rose from the depths of poverty to become one of the most successful fiction novelists of all time.

In this 2008 commencement, she speaks about the benefits of failure and the crucial importance of imagination.

She quips that a Harvard graduate’s idea of failure is likely the idea of success for most others.

Rowling is a prime example of someone who came from nothing and developed into a legend through sheer will and determination.

Her commencement speech, like her life story, will leave you thinking you can do the same.

Dartmouth Class of 2011

Conan O’Brien

Humor always works.

O’Brien sarcastically points out that college graduates in 2011 will have what only 92% of other Americans possess; a college degree.

They will have the upper hand on college dropout losers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg.

It resonated with millions on Youtube, much like the more recently posted USC commencement by Will Ferrell.

You have to weed through about 17 minutes of a standup-like routine, but the last 6 +/- minutes of the speech get to the meat of it.

He talks about how failure sucks.

But the year he seemingly failed and was booted from NBC, he ended up having the best, most fulfilling year of his life.

His insights are similar to some of the insights Steve Jobs shares about getting fired from Apple in his commencement speech above.

His parting words?

“Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen”.

It’s a little easier said than done, especially the first part. But, if you are willing to do it, I believe it to be true.

What Do You Think?

Have you seen a memorable, inspirational commencement speech that you’d like to share?

Let me know in the comments section below.

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