8 Best Graduation Speeches From Famous Speakers Who Won The 2015 Commencement Season
Graduation season is upon us, and with that comes lengthy speeches made in the May heat during an already sometimes tedious ceremony. Parents wait for the right names, fanning themselves with bulletins, and those last few minutes seem like the longest of the whole education process. But Joe Biden spoke before the graduating class at Yale University on Sunday, sporting his trademark aviator sunglasses and making a few jokes.
The vice president's comedic speech, along with those of most graduation speakers, did contain a little bit of wisdom for the class of 2015 to break up the dullness of an hours-long commencement. He was in good company, too, as some of the nation's most prominent cultural and political leaders made their ways back to school and tried to impart insight to the people who might take their places. Often commenting in the standard graduation wardrobe, celebrities, politicians, and overall inspiring figures took the stage to welcome thousands of academic strivers into the real world. Their lessons are good ones to remember for listeners of all ages and stages of life. Here are the top speeches from this year's graduations and the best advice they handed out to the younger generation.
Biden's speech at Yale's undergraduate Class Day went seemingly everywhere from the superiority of Corvettes over Porsches to the shortcomings of Yale's football team over rival Harvard. His best advice: “Don’t forget about what doesn’t come from this prestigious diploma — the heart to know what’s meaningful and what’s ephemeral and the head to know the difference between knowledge and judgment."
Maya Rudolph was hilarious at Tulane University's commencement. She danced up the stairs and said she had to prevent herself from crying at the beginning of her speech in order to make the class laugh. She did a few impressions, channeling Beyoncé and Oprah. She even parodied the National Anthem, adding in a mixture of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and a couple of Beyoncé hits. Best advice: "So if I must give any of you advice, it would be say yes. Say yes, and create your own destiny."
Better known as Flo from the Progressive commercials, Stephanie Courtney spoke at Binghamton University. She recalled many hard years trying to make it as an actress, all the while making jokes about wanting to suck the blood and youth out of the graduates. Best advice: "I have gone on hundreds of auditions. Therefore, I have gone on hundreds of job interviews, and here's what I have to say about them: Go on a lot of them. Bump into walls. Say the wrong thing. Say the right thing. Hone your resumé. ... You have to get better and better at it."
The first lady received an honorary degree when she spoke at Tuskegee University. She was funny and personable and also spoke on her personal experiences with racism. Best advice: "And here’s what I really want you to know — you have got everything you need to do this. You’ve got it in you. Because even if you’re nervous or unsure about what path to take in the years ahead, I want you to realize that you’ve got everything you need right now to succeed. You’ve got it."
Colbert delivered the commencement address at Wake Forest University and received an honorary doctorate of humanities. The new host of the Late Show did not disappoint as he quipped on about the future and Wake Forest's history. Best advice: "Having your own standards allows you to perceive success where others may see failure."
George W. Bush
George W. Bush gave his first commencement address since leaving the White House. At Southern Methodist University, he praised those who graduated with honors and awards, then added, "As I like to tell the C students, you too can be president." Given in his charismatic Texas accent, Bush's best advice was: "Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence."
The former secretary of state spoke at William and Mary on Sunday and received an honorary doctor of public service degree. Rice spoke with dignity and grace on the importance of education. Best advice: "...Find something that you're passionate about and follow it. I don't mean just any old thing that interests you, not just something you might or might not do but that one unique calling that you can't do without. As an educated person, you have the opportunity to spend your life doing what you love. You should never forget that many people don't enjoy such a rare privilege. As you work to find your passion, you should know that sometimes, your passion finds you."
President Obama has now visited every state of the union while president, and the last was South Dakota as he spoke for the graduating class of Lake Area Technical Institute. Obama chose the small school because of his belief in the economic importance of community colleges and praised the school's high graduation rate. Best advice: "Graduates, I hope that’s something you keep in mind as you walk across the stage today — that gratification that comes with helping someone find their path; for making yourself useful not just to yourself, but to others. For you haven’t just earned new opportunities with this degree; you’ve also earned responsibilities along with it."