Now that graduation season has come to a close, it is time to catch up on all of the wonderful commencement speeches made to inspire students to excel in life. Take a moment this summer after a long day at your internship to sit down and listen to some of these speeches. They will certainly motivate you to work harder, be fearless and pursue your passions.
Robert De Niro is one of the best actors in the business. After 50 years in film, he has a wealth of knowledge that the Tisch School of Arts at NYU wanted students to hear. His witty speech did have a powerful undertone. De Niro reflected on the different roles in the entertainment business and in doing so, mentioned the importance of dealing with rejection. According to De Niro, the most important word for young grads to remember is “next.” If you don’t get what you want, work for the next job. Rejection is inevitable so just keep saying “next.”
Most people are familiar with Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche because of her feature in Beyonce’s **Flawless. Or maybe you are one those overachievers who binges on Ted Talks. Regardless, Adiche is a vocal feminist who is worth the listen. She brought her bold ideas to Wellesley College and made profound remarks regarding feminism and sexism in the workforce. She told the graduating females to “never accept ‘because you are a woman’ for doing or not doing anything.” Rather, gender should be out of the equation; what you do is what matters.
When Ed Helms graced the stage at UVA’s commencement, he compared the current job market to the Hunger Games. Don’t worry, his speech became more positive after that. To call out the elephant in the room, Helms brought up the recent controversy that UVA dealt with. After a few quips, Helms noted a crucial lesson that can be taken from this debacle: do not let others define you. He reminded students to live the life that they imagined by not letting others define the person that they are or who they would become.
Harvard graduate, Natalie Portman, visited her alma mater to speak to students about passion. When Portman took a break from acting to attend Harvard, her love for filmmaking became evident. With this, Portman encouraged students to find the “reason behind your prize.” Thus, people should not only figure out what they love to do but why they are meant to do it.
Grace Helbig is a best-selling author, TV show host and YouTube queen. She has made a name for herself through her sarcasm, puns and genius comedic timing. Helbig, however, is no joke. Following her graduation from Ramapo College, Helbig reassessed her life and realized the value of following her fear. In improv classes, Helbig began to understand that “being uncomfortable is truly being alive.” Comfort is a luxury but after awhile-even luxuries can get boring.
Ryan Pitts, a graduate of University of New Hampshire, recently received the Medal of Honor due to his heroic action in Afghanistan. His story was heavy and emotional but it certainly made an impact. When sharing his story about the day that changed his life, he reminded students about the impact of selflessness. Pitts witnessed selflessness first hand due to the actions of his fellow soldiers. Their courage and helping hand saved his life. Small acts of selflessness in one’s everyday life can have a similar impact.
Elizabeth Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos. She also happens to be the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. While she may not be a household name like De Niro, she is an accomplished woman who has changed the medical field for the better. While speaking at Seaver College, she told graduates ask themselves what they would do if they couldn’t fail. Then, she told them to go do that. Nothing will make you work harder than that fear.
For more advice on what to do after graduation read my book Welcome to the Real World.