4 Commencement Speeches to Watch (Even if You’re Not Wearing a Cap and Gown)

Graduation season is upon us. While grads begin to dread the oh-so-painful thought of repaying all those student loans, it’s also of course an exciting and life changing time for all those who have worked diligently to accomplish diploma worthy achievements.

As we creatives know though, a diploma isn’t everything. To many, skills are more important than semesters spent in a lecture hall. That being said the actual ceremony of graduating is something special and can create an incomparable sense of motivation and inspiration.

Whether you’re donning a polyester gown or not this time of year, we think you’ll enjoy these graduation speeches about failure, success, achieving your dreams, and using imagination.

Katie Couric

It’s important for anyone beginning a new life chapter to remember that failure happens to everyone. It’s a part of life that most try to avoid, but as Katie makes clear, it’s crucial to development. When you’re facing a disaster of your own making remember “failure helps you develop another essential skill. And that’s resilience.”

Sheryl Sandberg

So you’re facing a giant, seemingly insurmountable challenge in you career. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered an important motivational statement during her commencement speech at Barnard College’s 2011 ceremony for just this type of situation: “never let your fear overwhelm your desire. Let the obstacles in your path be external not internal. Fortune does favor the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.”

Push through what’s attempting to hold you back. You’re capable of accomplishing more than you realize.

Maya Rudolph

A serious speech from Maya Rudolph wasn’t in the cards of course, but there’s more to this commencement speech than a notable (and dead-on) Oprah impression. Maya’s reminder to admit what our dreams are and work hard to make them a reality is a home run for creatives. What are your dreams? What can you do to make them a reality?

Oh, and remember that singing Beyonce is a great way to end any presentation.

J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter clearly is a bigger fan of Hogwarts than Harvard, but author J.K. Rowling brought a little magic to the class of 2008. When facing real life, the burden of “acting like an adult” is a common goal. Expectations get you into trouble, imagination gets you everywhere – and really, it’s what helps forge a person into an adult who can see outside of themselves.

Take this piece of advice and run with it as you enter into the next phase of your life:

“Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.”

Aspire to seek perspective outside of your own bubble and use your imagination the best way possible – to help other people.


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Lindsey Bluher is the Social Media Specialist at CreativeLive. Enjoy pictures of her dog by following her on twitter or Instagram @lindseyblue