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Need a graduation pep talk? Here are 5 of our favorite commencement speeches

Last updated March 1, 2021

Graduation is an interesting moment - you’re ending a HUGE, exciting chapter of your life thus far, but beginning a new one full of opportunity, big choices to make, and endless potential.

It can be a scary moment, especially right now when things feel deeply, frustratingly uncertain. But it’s also a moment for inspiration - for you to rise to the occasion, move toward fulfilling your dreams, make mistakes, succeed, and live your life the way you want to!

Don’t take it from us, though, listen to these commencement pep talks from legendary speakers!


“This is your generation’s world to shape…” 

- Barack Obama, Virtual Commencement for the entire class of 2020. 5/16/20


“Don’t let your fellow humans be alien to you.”

- Zadie Smith, New School of NY, 20014


“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.”

- Bill Gates, Harvard, 2007


“Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all that you are capable of knowing. You are your own stories and therefore free…”

- Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College


"in 2000—I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that. But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality."

- Conan O’brien, Dartmouth, 2011

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