Best 5 Commencement Speeches — Just My Opinion, You Can Feel Differently

I heard someone quoting from a commencement speech and thought today I’d share to 5 that I’ve listened to, or read, on multiple occasions. They were that good.

These speeches were ‘the best’ because of the effect they had on me, in some cases because of what was going on in my life at the time I heard them. Here goes…

1) Conan O’Brien, 2011 Dartmouth Commencement

While O’Brien gave this speech in 2011, I ran across it in 2014, when I was reeling from back-to-back cancelled job offers and unemployed.

2) Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement

There’s more to this speech than just the line, “stay hungry, stay foolish”, have a listen.

3) J.K. Rowling — 2008 Harvard Commencement

As a rejected writer, I took solace in J.K. Rowling’s words.

…and so rock-bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all

4) Shonda Rhimes — 2014 Dartmouth Commencement

After listening to the audio version of, Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, I listened to this speech. To me one of the most meaningful parts of the speech is told in Year of Yes when Rhimes writes that she had one speech written and then as she flew to New Hampshire, she considered that anyone could have written it and that she wanted to speak HER story. Here it is, enjoy.

5) Michael Uslan — 2006 Indiana University Commencement

Below is a brief clip from Michael Uslan’s commencement speech at Indiana University, the complete transcript can be found here.

“You must have a high threshold for frustration. Take it from the guy who was turned down by every studio in Hollywood. You must knock on doors until your knuckles bleed. Doors will slam in your face, I guarantee it. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back and knock again. It’s the only way to achieve your goals in life.

Finally, follow whatever your passion is. Do something you love. My dad was a mason, starting at age 16 when he dropped out of school to help his family survive the Depression. Until he was 80 he worked six days a week no matter how hot or how cold out it was outside. He was an old world artist… a real craftsman who created magnificent fireplaces and homes out of bricks and stones. Every morning of my childhood, I saw my Dad jump out of bed before dawn, eager to get to work, a smile on his face. He was doing what he loved and I knew that was what I wanted out of life… to be able to wake up on a rainy Monday morning and be able to say, “Boy, I can’t wait to get to work!” But I had to find my own bricks and stones. Today, I challenge you to find yours.”

As I said above, these commencement speeches are the ‘FIVE BEST’ for me. I don’t remember the speech given at my college graduation (or high school), do you? Give a comment below…

About the author: I love quotes and created the audiobook: Quotes for Achievement. My newest book is meant to inspire underemployed or unemployed folks with both practical tips and personal stories. Out-of-Work to Making Money, 21 Comeback Stories Every Job Hunter Should Hear is currently available on Amazon (coming soon to Audible)

A programmer by day, author by night. When I put on running tights, I like to imagine I’m a super hero. Creator of Follow me if you dare.

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