These five powerful speeches are a must for anyone who needs a little push in life right now.
by Aisiri Amin
Graduation is a defining moment for most of us. But it is also the most confusing time. We find ourselves at crossroads, hoping against hope that we will make the right decision. But graduation is just the beginning.
Over the years we often find it difficult to bounce back when we fall or find ourselves unhappy with the chosen path or lose our fire in the chaos of the mundane life. So, here are five graduation speeches for those who are beginning something new and for those who need to be reminded how to keep going.
Embrace the words, let them sink in deep.
1. Steve Jobs, Stanford University (2005)
Drawing on his life experiences, Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, speaks about mapping out your life but also just letting some things pan out on their own. Things happen for a reason. You might not understand every failure, every fall now but there will come a time when you do, so for now just do your thing in the best possible way.
“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
2. J.K. Rowling, Harvard University (2008)
We grew up in her magical world. She got us to believe in something that we really needed to but didn’t: magic. We all need a little bit of magic to push through sometimes. JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, celebrated imagination in her book, inspired many to fight their demons and believe that goodness and love matter the most.
In the commencement address, she talks about the difficulties she faced in her childhood, the failures she has experienced and the importance of imagination.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
3. Michelle Obama, Tuskegee University (2015)
In the eight years as First Lady of US, Michelle Obama’s powerful speeches have inspired people and resonated with many. At the commencement address, she spoke about the importance of seizing the moment and creating a future that we want to see.
“And you don’t have to be President of the United States to start addressing things like poverty, education and lack of opportunity. Graduates, today — today, you can mentor a young person and make sure he or she takes the right path. Today, you can volunteer at an after-school program or food pantry.”
4. Gloria Steinem, Tufts University (1987)
Feminist activist and writer, Gloria Steinem has been on the forefront of the fight for the rights of women for six decades. At the commencement speech, she highlighted that if we want to progress then a society based on equality is a must. Her empowering words make you reflect on your actions and give you a push in the right direction.
“So whatever you want to do, just do it. Don’t worry about making a damn fool of yourself. Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential. And you will have a great time.”
“Don’t forget to give at least ten percent of everything you earn to social change. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.”
5. Neil Gaiman, University of the Arts (2012)
The author of well-known novels such as American Gods and Stardust, Neil Gaiman talks about the hurdles you come across when you choose a career in arts, the failures, discouragement, the chaos you often find yourself lost in. But amidst all of that, you will find the magic and it will be worth it. So, let yourself free.
“I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.”
“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
Aisiri Amin (she/her) is an independent journalist specializing in gender, culture, and social justice. She is a struggling optimist, trying to understand the world through cinema, books, and travel.