Commencement speeches have the power to motivate, influence, and inspire students about to embark on the next chapter of their lives. And if anyone can command the attention of a room (or a 10,000 person arena), it's a seasoned entertainer. Over the years, famous people have been given the chance to galvanize America's young folk by addressing a graduating class, and the results have been pretty darn impressive. Need some May motivation? These inspirational quotes from celebrity graduation speeches are bound to make you cry, laugh, and get pumped to take on the real world.
1. Will Ferrell, USC (2017)
To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do with your life, congratulations. For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s OK. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.
You hear that, USC grads? You're sitting in the same chair as Ron Burgundy and he totally believes in you.
2. Meryl Streep, Barnard (2010)
Being a celebrity has taught me to hide, but being an actor has opened my soul. Being here today has forced me to look around inside there for something useful that I can share with you and I’m really grateful you gave me the chance. You know you don’t have to be famous. You just have to make your mother and father proud of you and you already have. Bravo to you.
Meryl knows what's up. Meryl knows what's important. Listen to Meryl.
3. Mindy Kaling, Harvard Law School (2014)
Well, then, who should be giving advice? And the answer is people like you. You are better educated and you are going to go out into the world and people are going to listen to what you say, whether you are good or evil, and that probably scares you because some of you look really young. And I’m afraid a couple of you probably are evil. That’s just the odds. And to be honest, it scares me because you look like a bunch of tweens. So please, just try to be the kind of people that give advice to celebrities, not the other way around.
Of course Mindy Kaling would provide the right balance of heart and humor in her speech. Of course.
4. Stephen Colbert, Wake Forest University (2015)
So I hope you find the courage to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. And then, please expect as much of the world around you. Try to make the world good according to your standards. It won’t be easy. Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done — like ending racial tension, or getting money out of politics, or lowering the world’s carbon emissions. And we should know they can’t be done. After all, we’re the ones who didn’t do them. Your job, Pro Humanitate, is to prove us wrong. Because if you don’t prove us wrong, then forget everything I’ve been saying.
When in doubt, call out your own generation and call on the next one to make things right.
5. Kerry Washington, George Washington University (2013)
You and you alone are the only person who can live the life that writes the story that you were meant to tell. And the world needs your story because the world needs your voice. Every single one of you.
Commencement speech? It's handled.
6. Amy Poehler, Harvard Class Day (2011)
When you feel scared, hold someone's hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing. You are all here because you are smart. And you are brave. And if you add kindness and the ability to change a tire, you almost make up the perfect person.
Leslie Knope would be so proud.
7. Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University (2008)
This is what I know for sure: In order to be truly happy, you must live along with and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back.
She also added that she really wanted to give the class cars, but couldn't pull it off. Great advice from Oprah herself seems sufficient enough, right?!