Missed Your Graduation Ceremony? Get Inspired By These 5 Famous Commencement Speeches


It’s that time of year again: June is graduation season at colleges and universities across Canada.

Soon-to-be alumni are busy getting their gowns and inviting friends and family to the ceremony. However, some grads aren’t able to attend their convocation, for any number of reasons. If you missed yours and didn’t get to hear the stirring words of the keynote speaker meant to pump you up before you head out into the “real world,” fear not!

We’ve rounded up five of the most inspiring commencement speeches below.

Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

Steve Jobs’ commencement address to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University is perhaps the most well-known speech on this list. Jobs shared three stories with the Stanford graduates about key moments in his life that contributed to his success:

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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.”

Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth College, 2014

When Shonda Rhimes spoke to the graduating class at her alma mater in 2014, she cautioned against dreaming and following your passion – real motivational, right? Rhimes explained that only by trying new things and taking the opportunities that come to you can you discover what really makes you happy. In other words, if something interests you, pursue it, even if it’s not what you first had in mind for your career.

“I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.”

Jim Carrey, Maharishi School of Management, 2014

Jim Carrey made headlines with his speech at MUM in which he encouraged graduates to think big, discover what it is they want out of life, and to “ask the universe” for it. He said, “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” These are wise words to live by for any student.

J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2005

In J.K. Rowling’s commencement address to Harvard, the literary superstar opened up about life before she achieved international fame for her writing. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare in London before she published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She offered her experience as a difficult but essential part of life that all young grads can look forward to.

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. 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.”

Margaret Atwood, University of Toronto, 1983

Anxiety about the economy and whether or not investing in school was the right choice is a common concern for millennials. Countless articles have been written about this generation, so it’s understandable why today’s grads might have mixed feelings about leaving the place they’ve called home for the last four years.

When Margaret Atwood spoke to the graduating class at the University of Toronto in 1983, she spoke about the same fears that millennials have today and encouraged the class to think differently. It’s sound advice for grads of ’83 and 2016 alike.

“You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it.”

Read the full transcript of Margaret Atwood’s speech here


And from us at TalentEgg, congratulations, grad!