Motivation: The 10 Best Commencement Speeches of 2013

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / June 26, 2013

oprah winfrey

Graduation: A time that brings together public figures, celebrities, and intellectuals alike to impart their words of wisdom on the graduating class. Throughout this celebratory season, commencement speakers are called upon to share the defining moments in their lives and the lessons they’ve learned in facing adversity. Many give advice on how to prepare for the road ahead and remind the graduates to stay true to themselves as they move forward on their journey. In the spirit of the graduation season, the team at Fueled compiled a list of the top commencement speeches of 2013:

Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

“It doesn’t matter how far you might rise, at some point you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do, raising the bar. If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages, not to mention The Myth of Icarus, predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us into another direction.”

“It’s okay to feel bad for a little while. Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost. But then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.”

Julie Andrews, University of Colorado at Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

“Use your knowledge and your heart to stand up for those who can’t stand; speak for those who can’t speak; be a beacon of light for those whose lives have become dark; fight the good fight against global warming; be a part of all that is decent; and be an ambassador for the kind of world you want to live in.

Stephen Colbert, University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

“So if you must find your own path, and you are left with no easy path, then decide to take the hard path that leads you to the life and the world that you want. And don’t worry if we do not approve of your choices. In our benign self-absorption, I believe we have given you a gift; a particular form of independence, for you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese.”

Dalai Lama, Tulane University

New Orleans, Louisiana

“The very purpose of our life is happiness, which is sustained by hope. We have no guarantee about the future, but we exist in the hope of something better. Hope means keeping going, thinking, ‘I can do this.’ It brings inner strength, self-confidence, the ability to do what you do honestly, truthfully and transparently.”

Ed Helms, Knox College

Galesburg, Illinois

“So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you’re on the right track. A life oriented toward discovery is infinitely more rewarding than a life oriented toward not blowing it.”

“So don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.”

President Obama, U.S. Naval Academy

Annapolis, Maryland
“We need your Honor — that inner compass that guides you, not when the path is easy and obvious, but when it’s hard and uncertain; that tells you the difference between that which is right and that which is wrong.  Perhaps it will be a moment when you think nobody is watching.  But never forget that honor, like character, is what you do when nobody is looking.”

Arianna Huffington, Smith College

Northampton, Massachusetts
“And remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rice University

Houston, Texas

“So, your diploma is really not a ticket to show off what you know. You know what it really is? It’s permission to admit to yourself how much you still have yet to learn. And you know what is still left to learn? All the things that come together when great things happen in a nation, when great things happen in a world. As I said, the science, the art, the geopolitics, all of that matters. Nothing happens without some touching of all those branches of culture. There is no solution to a problem that does not embrace all that we have created as a species.”

Cory Booker, Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

“Real courage is holding on to that still voice in your head that says ‘I must keep going.’ It’s that voice that says to you that nothing is a failure if it is not final, if I keep going — that voice that says to you: ‘Get out of bed no matter what. Keep going.’ That voice that says to you: ‘I will not quit. I will not give up no matter how dark the days, no matter how big my mistake, I won’t give up… I won’t lose the lessons that I can find in my lowest pits of despair, because when I emerge, it’s those lessons that will define my being.’”

Deepak Chopra, Hartwick College

Oneonta, New York

“Know you can only give to the world that which you possess in the innermost core of your own being. Remember that you will create peace only when you are peaceful and that you will create a loving world only when you have learned to love.”
“I entreat you today not  to lose your idealism with the passage of years. That idealism is connected to your knowingness of the good that can be created and the power to manifest it. In you lies the potential for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and happier world.”

Written by Emily Joyce of Fueled

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.