Every year, I make a point to watch a few commencements live from leading institutions in the United States. I enjoy seeing the happy faces of new graduates and pride that brings alumni back to celebrate. I enjoy seeing the beautiful weather and outdoor ceremonies. But above all, I pay attention to commencement speeches.
I have found commencement speeches to be an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. At the end of each academic year, I like to pause and reflect. I find commencement speeches to be a great way to do just that. The following are my three favorites:
Dolly Parton discussed her modest beginnings and her ability to Dream More, which fueled her career progression. She also mentioned that though she never went to college, she was one of the most prolific song writers of all time. Dolly talked about the importance of finding various ways to learn new things. She encouraged graduates to consider continuous learning as a necessity. Ultimately, she invited new graduates to celebrate the dreamers within. She went on to publish a book based on her powerful speech!
Oprah Winfrey also had humble beginnings and false starts in her career. Most would agree that she reached her current status because of her ability to connect with others. In her speech she discussed the importance of not only listening to others, but the importance of validating and normalizing their lived experiences. She made a compelling case for the importance of empathy, humanity, and meaningful relationships.
Natalie Portman shared how she has taken many risks in her career. She admitted that had she known how much work some projects were going to require, she may not have gone forward with them. That being said, she never worried too much about difficulties and she trusted herself to rise up to the challenges—and she always has. What she left new graduates with was that it’s important to know when to take a leap of faith and to not underestimate what we can accomplish.
Feel free to use the comments section to add your own favorite speeches or ones you are planning to watch this year!