9 Brilliantly Inspiring Quotes From Commencement Speeches


Graduation season stirs up a lot of feelings. For graduates, it’s an exciting and scary time, while those of us who’ve already walked across the stage may feel nostalgic and wistful.

Whether you’re the one graduating or already deep into the “real world,” the life advice that comes out of commencement ceremonies this time of year can be a valuable, inspiring, and bold reminder that you can do this — that you can take on anything life throws at you. Maybe you’ll even change the world.

Don’t believe us? These brilliant quotes from commencement speeches by speakers you know and love will move you to action:

1. “If you have found that thing, that purpose in life that gives you access to maximum enthusiasm, trust that! I’m not talking about a job, nor a career, for that matter. I’m talking about a calling, that thing that forces the metaphorical lampshade from your soul and mandates that everyone wear sunglasses in your presence because you just that damn bright! This is not a selfish act! Because now, those who fall within your sphere of influence know that what is possible for you … is possible for them, as well.” – Sterling K. Brown, Stanford University


2. “There will be blind alleys and one-night wonders and soul-crushing jobs and wake-up calls and crises of confidence and moments of transcendence when you are walking down the street and someone will thank you for telling your story because it resonated with their own.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda, University of Pennsylvania

3. “When you are free from self-doubt, you fail better, because you don’t have your defenses up. You can accept the criticism. You don’t become so preoccupied with that failure that you forget how to learn from it, you forget how to grow. When you believe in yourself, you succeed better. Hours spent questioning, doubting, fearing can be given over to working, exploring, living.” — Jennifer Lee, University of New Hampshire


4. “We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. And trust me, that’s not morbid. In fact, it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective.” — Arianna Huffington, Vassar College

5. “One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself — right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life — is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey and not to the outcome.” — Joyce DiDonato, Juilliard School


6. “I don’t know what your future is, but if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes … then you will not regret it.” — Chadwick Boseman, Howard University

7. “Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen, it’s hard work that creates change. … Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. … My dreams did not come true, but I worked really hard and I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it.” — Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth


8. “Fearlessness means taking the first step even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart more than when you stand with a crowd. Be fearless. Be the last people to accept things as they are and the first people to stand up and change them for the better.” — Tim Cook, Duke University

9. “And finally, this: This will save you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. You’re only on this planet to be you, not someone else’s imitation of you. … Your life journey is about learning to become more of who you are and fulfilling the highest, truest expression of yourself as a human being. That’s why you’re here. You will do that through your work and your art, through your relationships and love.” — Oprah Winfrey, University of Southern California


A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

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