Top 10 Graduation Speeches of All Time

And some good places to start if you need to write one…

Jonathan Chew
Jun 22, 2017 · 17 min read

With that said, here are my top 10 graduation speeches of all time:

1. Steve Jobs (Stanford, 2005)

2. J.K. Rowling (Harvard, 2008)

We touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

3. Sheryl Sandberg (UC Berkeley, 2016)

Lean into the suck.

Your life is not determined by what you achieve but how you survive.

4. Will Ferrell (Harvard, 2003)

This is not the Wooster Mass boat show is it?!…

5. Natalie Portman (Harvard, 2015)

[Your university] is giving you all diplomas tomorrow. You are here for a reason.

Dive into your own obliviousness.

6. Neil Gaiman (University of the Arts, 2012)

I didn’t have a career, I just did the next thing on the list.

7. David Foster Wallace (Kenyon College, 2005)

It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head.

8. Jim Carrey (Maharishi University of Management, 2014)

Sometimes that’s the only thing that’s important really, is just letting each other know we’re here, reminding each other that we’re part of a larger self.

What’s yours? How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide?

9. Valedictorian Carl Aquino (West Hall High School, 2010)

10. Conan O’Brien

Though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it.

Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.

Honorable Mention:

Admiral William H. McRaven (University of Texas, Austin, 2014)

Tips for Writing Your Own Graduation Speech

Jonathan Chew (UCLA School of Engineering, 2009)


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Jonathan Chew

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Disney Imagineer. Startup enthusiast. Sci-Fi/Self-Help novelist on a mission to build a Positopian world. Follow me @JonathanGChew or go to: www.chewsjoy.com

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org