It's a scary time for graduates to charge into the real world. There's the economy, global warming, and racial violence. That's when a great commencement speech can really help. The best ones so far this year haven't avoided the issues of the day, but addressed them head-on, offering hope, inspiration and purpose.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Tuskegee University
"Our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together – then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together – together – we can overcome anything that stands in our way."
Apple CEO Tim Cook, George Washington University
"The one thing I'd like to bring to you is the idea that progress is possible whatever line of work you choose.There will always be cynics and critics on the sidelines tearing people down, and just as harmful are those people with good intentions who make no contribution at all. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote that our society needed to repent not merely for the hateful words of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
Scientist Bill Nye, Rutgers University
"The oncoming trouble is climate change: It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called The Greatest Generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of Climate Change and carry on as The Next Great Generation."
Actress Maya Rudolph, Tulane University
"If I must give any of you advice it would be Say Yes. Say Yes … and create your own destiny. So hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow. But work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn phone once in a while. And be nice to jerks because we still don’t know the criteria for getting into heaven yet."
"And if there’s one thing you need even more it’s your own set of standards. It may seem counterintuitive now, but once you leave here, you may miss being graded on all your work. Because when you’re out of school, there are no objective criteria for achievement anymore. People my age will sometimes say to you, 'Hey, that work you did, that thing you said, that cause you championed, it’s not good.' Well, having your own standards will help you weather moments like that. Having your own standards allows you to perceive success where others may see failure."