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Inspiring Quotes From Our Top 10 Commencement Speakers

Samantha Huntley
Monday, Jun 03, 2024
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As we near the end of the academic year, inspiration comes to many through commencement speeches. These words of wisdom serve as a source of guidance for graduates as they embark on new journeys. Renowned speakers from various fields share their wisdom and experiences, offering valuable insights for the next chapter of life. Here are some of our top Commencement Keynote Speakers and their inspirational highlights from past commencement speeches. 

"Stop and think about what's important to you, not what's important to your parents or your friends or your teachers or your Instagram followers." - Ben Nemtin

Ben Nemtin, co-founder of The Buried Life movement, encourages graduates to define their own success. His journey of creating and pursuing the “world’s greatest bucket list” with his three best friends serves as a reminder to prioritize purpose and meaningful experiences in life. He emphasizes the importance of pursuing passions and highlights the value of setting ambitious goals and finding fulfillment in overcoming challenges. 

"Change a slice of the world, no matter how small." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award-winning author and teacher known for her powerful storytelling, urges graduates to embrace truth and courage. Drawing from personal experience as an American immigrant from Nigeria, she emphasizes the importance of honesty and encourages the audience to challenge the status quo, make a difference,  speak out against injustice, and use their privilege to effect positive change in the world.  

"Find whatever it is that lights your fire and share that." - Andy Buckley

Andy Buckley, CFO of Dunder Mifflin on NBC's "The Office," wasn’t always a Hollywood actor. Before pursuing his passion for acting, he was an accountant. He lived a modest life that didn’t excite him much and had regret looming in the background. But his choice to shoot for the stars led him to begin his acting career at an age most believe is for settling down. His keynote speech emphasizes hard work, openness to new ideas, and teamwork. His message inspires success through passion and sharing one's light with others along the way.

"There's a difference between success and significance." - Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow, a two-time national NFL champion and Heisman Trophy winner, delivers a powerful commencement speech emphasizing the importance of living with convictions and pursuing a life of significance over success. His message resonates, urging graduates to make a difference whenever the opportunity arises and to prioritize purpose in life.

"True self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends." - Adam Braun

Adam Braun, founder of the Pencils of Promise, shares his transformative journey from a comfortable life to founding this ambitious non-profit to provide education to developing communities. He emphasizes the importance of challenging oneself and highlights the impact of small, meaningful acts. Braun encourages graduates to speak about themselves as the person they aspire to be. His message centers on making life a story worth telling, embracing fear in pursuit of big dreams, and continually moving towards the finish line of success.

 "Focus on the positive, trust your navigation system, and enjoy the ride." - Bert Jacobs

Bert Jacobs, co-founder and Chief Executive Optimist of Life is Good, uses his commencement speeches to celebrate enduring friendships and urge graduates to focus on life’s positives, much like his work at Life if Good’s nonprofit sector. He emphasizes timeless values and finding purpose beyond material success, resonating with a message of resilience and embracing life's journey. 

"Break all boundaries and challenge the status quo" - Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari, an astronaut, high-tech serial entrepreneur and global leader, encouraged graduates to embrace imagination and perseverance. She highlights the transformative experience of seeing Earth from space, inspiring them to care for the planet and pursue their dreams relentlessly.

"You cannot maximize your success alone.” - Carla Harris

Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley and one of Fortune Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America”, uses her speeches to emphasize embracing grit, grace, and gratitude. She highlights the importance of resilience, authenticity, and relationships, inspiring graduates to navigate their professional journeys with these values.

 "What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life of yours?" - Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad, record-breaking long-distance swimmer, shares her journey of perseverance and resilience. After her 3 failed attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida and her final successful attempt at 64 years old, she encourages graduates to embrace life's challenges, emphasizing that success is about who you become in the process, not what you get.

"You can't control your situation, but you can always control your attitude." - Travis Mills

Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee and war hero, embodies resilience and fortitude. Mills spreads a message of perseverance and speaks to inspire others to overcome life's trials. Mills exemplifies the power of a positive attitude and his journey teaches us that with determination, we can conquer any challenge. Mills’ speeches serve as a beacon of hope and resilience as graduates move into their next phase of life.

As graduates step into the world beyond academia, they carry with them the words of these inspirational speakers. Whether it's pursuing one's passions, embracing challenges, or leading with grit and grace, the messages resonate with the universal themes of perseverance and resilience. These speeches serve as a reminder that success is not just about achieving goals, but also about the journey and the person one becomes along the way.

Looking to inspire and motivate your people? Book one of these speakers at your next event or graduation ceremony. 

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