Updated: Mar 1
You’ve undoubtedly heard graduation speech examples with the following themes:
“Follow your dreams/passion”
“Never give up”
“Look inside you”
“It’s the journey not the destination”
“Hard times make you a better person”
“Choose the road less traveled”
“Oh the places you’ll go”
“Think outside the box”
Pick any theme above and you’ll undoubtedly find it in 95% of the graduation speeches ever given. These tired themes turn graduation speeches into 30-minute self-help seminars that audiences forget about 5 seconds after the speaker’s last line.
But there are other messages out there that don’t take the typical tack and end up giving timeless advice that’s actually worth a damn.
Here are my top 5 graduation speech examples that are worth listening to even if you aren’t graduating from college. Each one is just a bit different from the usual commencement fare—and that’s a good thing.
Neil Gaiman: University of the Arts, 2012
“Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the good days too.”
David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College, 2005
Robert Krulwhich, UC-Berkeley, 2011
“Suppose, instead of waiting for a job offer from the New Yorker, suppose next month, you go to your living room, sit down, and just do what you love to do. If you write, you write. You write a blog. If you shoot, find a friend, someone you know and like, and the two of you write a script. You make something. No one will pay you. No one will care, No one will notice, except of course you and the people you’re doing it with. But then you publish, you put it on line, which these days is totally doable, and then… you do it again.”
Joss Whedon, Wesleyan, 2013
Amy Poehler, Harvard, 2011