10 Outstanding Commencement Speeches in 2019

Thousands of students are graduating from college this month – proof that the college admissions process has a satisfying ending. At their graduation ceremonies, business leaders, journalists, politicians, and celebrities took to the stage as commencement graduation speakers.  Here are some of, what we consider, the best.

Global media leader Oprah Winfrey told students to use their talents, gifts, and knowledge to transform the world by their actions.

Message: “Small steps lead to big accomplishments…The most important thing is how you’re touching other people’s lives… The truth is, you cannot fix everything. But what you can do, here and now, is make a decision, because life is about decisions. And the decision is that you will use your life in service; you will be in service to life. You will speak up. You will show up. You will stand up. You will sit in. You will volunteer. You will vote. You will shout out. You will help. You will lend a hand.

In an inspiring speech, actress Kirsten Bell shared her secret to success which is that anyone can be successful.

Message: ‘Listen as fiercely as you want to be heard, when you respect the idea that you are sharing the earth with other humans, and when you lead with your nice foot forward, you’ll win, every time. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but it comes back to you when you need it. We live in an age of instant gratification, of immediate likes. and it is uncomfortable to have to wait to see the dividends of your kindness. But I promise you, it will appear exactly when you need it.”

Actress Glenn Close encouraged the graduating class to embrace themselves for who they are and focus on making lasting connections rather than comparing themselves to others.

Message: “What each of you has, and what you must believe in from this day forward, is your inherent uniqueness…Your perspective is unique. It’s important and it counts. Try not to compare it to anyone else. Accept it. Believe in it. Nurture it. Stay fiercely, joyously connected to the friends you have made here, to those you love and trust. You will have each other’s backs for the rest of your lives.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook gave students advice for finding careers that will give them a sense of purpose and encouraged them to build a better world.

Message: “As you go out into the world, don’t waste time on problems that have been solved. Don’t get hung up on what other people say is practical. Instead, steer your ship into the choppy seas. Look for the rough spots, the problems that seem too big, the complexities that other people are content to work around. It’s in those places that you will find your purpose. It’s there that you can make your greatest contribution. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of being too cautious. Don’t assume that by staying put, the ground won’t move beneath your feet. The status quo simply won’t last. So get to work on building something better.

Bill Nye, the science guy, encouraged students to embrace the knowledge of others and to change the world.

Message: “Everyone you’ll ever meet knows something you don’t, everyone.  Cooks know how to use copper bowls to control egg proteins, and that’s cool… Respect that knowledge and learn from others…Turn your fear into excitement and change the world.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned the new graduates to take nothing for granted and urged them to take risks, make thoughtful decisions, and hold onto core values. In parting, she advised graduates to go out into the world and “tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is.”

Message: “There is no beginning without an end, no day without night, no life without death. Our whole life consists of the difference, the space between beginning and ending.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor inspired students to dream big and to embrace education.

Message: “Education exposes you to what the world has to offer, to the possibilities open to you…Education is deeply important to our growth as people and as a community.”

In a humorous speech, singer, songwriter and activist Cindi Lauper confirmed that the road to success isn’t always smooth and easy. The key is not to get down on yourself.

Message: “Life is going to give you a bad turn. It’s a test.  It’s just a test. And look at all the tests you passed just to get here.”

The world-renown cellist urged students to use their power and influence wisely

Message: “Promise yourself that when you find your power, you will use it thoughtfully, with restraint, and with good intention. …Do not abuse your power ever… Remember always that you are a human being first,” Ma said. “Practice your humanity.”

The billionaire Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies, promised the graduates that he’d pay off the entire class of 2019’s student loans. Smith said he expected the recipients to “pay it forward” and said he hoped that “every class has the same opportunity going forward.”

Message: “We are enough to ensure that we have all the opportunities of the American dream. And we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds …Lean all the way in. Take chances. Fail big and take chances again. And remember, before you do something special, just do something … And most important of all, whatever it takes, never, ever forget to call your mother. And I do mean call, don’t text. Texts don’t count.”