Graduating from college is equal parts thrilling and terrifying, which is why new grads needall the cliches, platitudes, aphorisims and pithy quotes.
As for the rest of us, churning away mid-career and remembering the day when someone crackled something about dreams and hope into a microphone, well, we need a little motivation too. For old and young alike, here are a few highlights from the best commencement speeches this weekend.
President Obama’s speech at Rutger’s University:
“And that is, gear yourself for the long haul. Whatever path you choose — business, nonprofits, government, education, health care, the arts — whatever it is, you’re going to have some setbacks. You will deal occasionally with foolish people. You will be frustrated. You’ll have a boss that’s not great. You won’t always get everything you want — at least not as fast as you want it. So you have to stick with it. You have to be persistent. And success, however small, however incomplete, success is still success. I always tell my daughters, you know, better is good. It may not be perfect, it may not be great, but it’s good. That’s how progress happens — in societies and in our own lives.”
Russell Wilson’s University of Wisconson-Madison speech:
“Potential just means you haven’t done it yet. Already in my career, I’ve seen that lots of people have potential, but not everyone does it. And I’ve learned that the difference isn’t the way people handle themselves when things go well. When you land the job you want or you go to the school you want or achieve a goal even earlier than you expected, go ahead and celebrate. Be happy, enjoy it. But remember that the moments when life tells you yes aren’t the ones that define you. The moments that really matter are the moments when life tells you no.”
Sheryl Sanberg’s UC Berkely Speech:
“Last month, 11 days before the anniversary of Dave’s death, I broke down crying to a friend of mine. We were sitting—of all places—on a bathroom floor. I said: “11 days. One year ago, he had 11 days left. And we had no idea.” We looked at each other through tears, and asked how we would live if we knew we had eleven days left.
As you graduate, can you ask yourselves to live as if you had 11 days left? I don’t mean blow everything off and party all the time—although tonight is an exception. I mean live with the understanding of how precious every single day would be. How precious every day actually is.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s speect atUPenn:
(Speech starts around the 2:30 mark)
“Stories are essential. Don’t believe me? In a year where politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West indies built our financial system, a story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again immigrants get the job done. My dear terrified graduates, you are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives. The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children, and grandchildren, and therapists.”