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Commencement Speech Advice Isn’t Just For College Grads

It’s that time of year again, graduation time for the country’s university students. The newest crop of commencement speeches features a plentiful array of sound advice, jokes and heartfelt platitudes by bold-faced names in politics, business and celebrity.

If you don’t have time to read and watch the numerous, lengthy commencement speeches (who does?), we have you covered. Highlights from this year’s speeches include:

Elizabeth Warren at Bridgewater State University

Senator Elizabeth Warren offered gravitas, sound advice and a sense of humor to congratulate graduating seniors. She is the only commencement speaker (so far) who has quoted pop icon Taylor Swift in her speech, saying “’Haters going to hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.’ Knowing who you are helps you ‘Shake It Off’.”

President Obama at Rutgers University

“You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I'll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.”

Scott Kelly at the University of Houston

“In those moments when you’re doing something that could be life-changing, whether it’s in space, or in your career, you need to remind yourself that there is nothing more important than what you’re doing right now.”

Larry Ellison at the University of Southern California

“When people start telling you that you’re crazy, you might just be onto the most important innovation in your life.“ He added, “Don’t let the experts discourage you when you challenge the status quo. Like Mark Twain says, what’s an expert anyway? Just some guy from out of town.”

Lin Manuel Miranda at the University of Pennsylvania

“The stories we tell vs. the stories we leave out will reverberate across the rest of your life. 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 one you will be telling your children, and grandchildren and therapists.”

Sheryl Sandberg at University of California - Berkeley

The most moving and powerful commencement speech this year was by Sheryl Sandberg. Shared by over 3 million people via social media, Sandberg shared the lessons she has learned from the sudden loss of her husband one year ago.

“When the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are – and you might just become the best version of yourself.”

Even if you are not a fan of commencement speeches, this is a speech to be savored and saved for tough times.

And these speeches are only beginning. In early June, look for words of wisdom from Matt Damon, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ken Burns, at Stanford University.

A great commencement speech has the unique ability to break down the barriers of cynicism, and puts us back in the audience, wearing a cap and gown, ready to embark on our next great adventure.

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