5 Great Commencement Speakers

Written by Mike on May 10, 2013

Photo By Shimer College

It’s Commencement season in higher ed, and while we all scramble to complete the last minute preparations and get our live streams ready to go, I thought I’d take a moment and look back at some great Commencement speakers and their addresses to students.

For the most part, Commencement speakers are boring and often drag out an already long ceremony. I don’t remember my Commencement speaker. I think my wife had the guy that invented “The Club.” Remember that thing?

Here are a few people that gave interesting and thought-provoking addresses.

1. David McCullough – Wellesley High School

Ok, it’s a high school graduation, but a great message.

“None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

2. Neil Gaiman – University of the Arts

3. David Foster Wallace – Kenyon College

This one’s different because it’s been taken from its original form and made into a movie that really puts guts behind Wallace’s words. You can listen to his full address here or purchase a book version at Amazon.

4. Randy Pausch – Carnegie Mellon University

His “Last Lecture” will go down as one of the most moving speeches ever, but this commencement address given in 2008 is still powerful and touching.

5. Steve Jobs – Stanford University

This is Jobs at his most reflective and contemplative. I wish he was still around.