Graduation 2014: Advice from 5 celebrity commencement speakers

Puff Daddy received an honorary doctorate from Howard University on Saturday.
Puff Daddy received an honorary doctorate from Howard University on Saturday.
Credit: Getty

It’s college graduation season, which means that celebrities around the country are donning their caps and gowns to deliver words of wisdom to the Class of 2014. We’ve compiled some of our favorite celebrity commencement speeches below:

Puff Daddy:

Back when he was still Sean Combs, Puff Daddy spent two years studying business at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University before eventually dropping out. The rapper and media mogul returned to campus this weekend to receive an honorary doctorate. “It feels so good to be home,” he told the newly minted graduates according to the New York Daily News.”Howard University didn’t just change my life — it entered my soul, my heart, my being and my spirit. Nobody is going to invite you to the front of the line, you got to push your way to the front of the line.”

Jimmy Page:

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
Credit: Getty

Addressing graduates at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the former Led Zeppelin guitarist reflected on his own musical journey and the steps he took to make it to the top. “I have to be perfectly honest with you all: I’m sort of self-taught,” USA Today reports he told them. “Not such a bad thing, because I learned from records and trying to interpret playing my guitar heroes from there. Along the way, I became a session musician. … Those days, when I had to go in and have enough discipline to play — because, boy, if you made mistakes, you wouldn’t be seen again — I was in this old sort of studio for two and a half years playing a whole manner of things, from TV jingles to soundtracks to filler music for ‘Goldfinger,’ to The Kinks.”

George Stephanopolous:

George Stephanopolous and actor Jon Hamm on the set of "Good Morning America."
George Stephanopolous and actor Jon Hamm on the set of “Good Morning America.”
Credit: Getty

The “Good Morning America” anchor urged Franklin and Marshall graduates to not let fears about the economy or the job market stand in the way of their dreams. “I know how tough this economy is for so many, how daunting it can be to find that first job, how difficult it can be to make your way in a job market that doesn’t carry the promise of security anymore,” Stephanopolous told the audience. “But even as you deal with that pressure, try not to let the search for security stop you from doing work that stirs you up, the kind of work you think about even when you’re off the clock, the kind of work that you would do even if you weren’t paid.”

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg is a longtime proponent of women's empowerment.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is a longtime proponent of women’s empowerment.
Credit: Getty

Sheryl Sandberg:

Considering she wrote a book called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” it’s probably unsurprising that Sandberg’s address at the City Colleges of Chicago stressed the importance of ambition and developing strong leadership skills.

“Don’t lean back … lean in. The fact that you made this dream come true means you should be more ambitious,” Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer told the graduates. “This is only a start. Dream bigger – both for yourself and the world around you. As you extend your reach, you will see that what once seemed unattainable is now within your grasp. I want you to see that nothing is impossible. I want you to know that your dream is the possible dream.”

Comedian Jay Leno addressing Emerson College graduates. (Photo: Getty)
Comedian Jay Leno addressing Emerson College graduates.
Credit: Getty

Jay Leno:

The recently retired “Tonight Show” host was among the celebs who returned to his alma mater to deliver his commencement speech. He gave Emerson College graduates a detailed speech about working in show business, stressing the importance of hard work and dedication to one’s craft. “Work hard,” the comedian famed for his work ethic urged the class of 2014. “Remember, anybody can have a life. Careers are hard to come by.”

Upcoming Celebrity Speeches:

Expect to see more headlines about celebrity commencement addresses in the days ahead. Fashion designer Tory Burch (Babson College, May 17), Bill Nye, the Science Guy (UMass-Lowell, May 17), broadcast journalists Soledad O’Brien (Spellman College, May 18) and Katie Couric (Trinity College, May 18), NPR host Terry Gross (Bryn Mawr College, May 17) and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (Miami University, May 17) are probably perfecting their speeches as you read this.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter: @LakshmiGandhi.


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