The Best Advice From This Year’s Commencement Speeches
Hillary Clinton, Will Ferrell and others address the class of 2017.
In addition to flowers and rainy days, spring is sure to provide one other thing: commencement speeches. Below you’ll find the best in the crop of this year’s addresses, delivered by tech billionaires, beloved actors and at least one nasty woman. Whether you’re a recent graduate or a wise alum, they’re sure to inspire you.
Here they are:
Addressing the 2017 senior class, Biden urged the recent graduates to disconnect from technology and reconnect with their peers.“The people I’ve known who are successful and happy are the people who treat others with the same dignity that they demand for themselves,” Biden said. “To do that, you will have to fight the urge to build a self-referential, self-reinforcing and self-righteous echo chamber of yourself online.” If you want to be understanding of people, you have to burst your own filter bubble, in other words.
At her alma mater, Wellesley College, the former Secretary of State spoke to graduates about embracing ambition, dreaming big, and the necessity of overcoming fear. “Don’t be afraid of your ambition, of your dreams, or even your anger — those are powerful forces,” Clinton said, echoing Oprah Winfrey’s recent demand to end ‘fear-based leadership.’
At Lehigh University’s 149th commencement address, the MSNBC anchor returned to her alma mater to offer her insight on hashtags, fraternity parties, and why you shouldn’t change in the backseat of a moving car. Joking aside, Ruhle also advised graduates to open their minds to the ever-changing concepts of success, failure and fairness. “Life — life is not fair,” Ruhle said, “but it can be extraordinary.”
The Facebook founder, CEO and Harvard dropout focused his speech on the importance of having faith. “I know, you’re probably thinking: I don’t know how to … get a million people involved in anything,” Zuckerberg said.“But let me tell you a secret: no one does when they begin. Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.”
Armed with her sharp wit and irresistible charm, the London native reminded the 2017 graduates of Tulane University of the inevitability success, failure, and alcohol-related regrets. “You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day, but it’s really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever,” Mirren said.
Often praised for her vulnerability, the New York Times best-selling author and Facebook executive, gave a touching speech at Virginia Tech in which she advised graduates to learn to build resilience. “The most important thing I learned is that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience,” Sandberg said. “It is a muscle, and that means we can build it. We build resilience into ourselves.”
The Grammy Award winning musician addressed a large crowd at New York University, and praised graduates for their commitment to breaking down barriers. “Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principles, and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back,” Williams said. The “Happy” singer continued to encourage graduates, but warned that there is no place for “anonymous activism” in 2017. You have to make your presence known.
In commencement address that has since gone viral, the former Step Brothers actor gifted USC’s most recent class of Trojans with advice, humor, and even some karaoke.“But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of ‘what if.’ What if I never tried at all?” Ferrell said. It would be the world’s loss: we’d never have Anchorman.
With the help of both Aristotle and Goldilocks, the popular psychologist and author urged the crowd at USU to learn to cope with failure. “Grit doesn’t mean ‘keep doing the thing that’s failing,” Grant said. “It means ‘define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail.’”
The actor urged the new graduates to improve the world. “Work for the change,” DeNiro said. “Work to stop the insanity. Start now so the class of 2018 will graduate into a better world.” With 2017 having pushed Americans to their psychological limit for chaos, change is what we need.