Do you remember what the speaker said at your graduation ceremony? Maybe you were so excited that it was all a blur. Or maybe you tuned out, assuming it would just be the standard, boring stuff.
Or… maybe you were truly inspired. Often it’s just one little memorable line that strikes the right chord in your brain and your heart – and then you carry it with you forever. Often it’s a clever or funny line that catches us by surprise and snaps us to attention. Great example: “If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: Wear Sunscreen.” Or, we’ve always liked the one from Thomas Jefferson: “I find the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
As you venture out to tackle life’s next great adventure, perhaps these classic lines from graduation speeches will accompany you on your journey.
“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”
~ Bette Reese, American officer and pilot
“Check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead.”
~ Oprah Winfrey, talk-show host and empire builder
“The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.”
~ Jon Stewart, comedian, writer, producer, media critic
“If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of payments.”
- Earl Wilson, baseball player
“You get to make your own luck. 80% of success in your career will come from just showing up. The world is run by those who show up…not those who wait to be asked.”
~ Steve Blank, entrepreneur
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.”
- Will Rogers, actor, humorist and social commentator
“Have the wisdom to recognize the best in others while always demanding the best from yourself.”
Madeleine Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State
“If your uniform isn't dirty, you haven't been in the game.”
~ Ben Bernanke, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve
“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire… you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try.”
~ Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
And here’s a bonus quote from Ms. Sandberg, just because we think she’s awesome:
“Careers are not ladders – those days are gone. Careers are jungle gyms.”
“Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path… then by all means you should follow that.”
~ Ellen DeGeneres. Everyone knows who Ellen is.
“I’ve seen a generation eager, impatient even, to step into the rushing waters of history and change its course.”
~ Former President Obama
“Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.”
- Mark A. Cooper, author
This next one doesn’t get a ranking, and we’re not even sure it’s from a graduation speech, but we figured no blog would be complete without advice from a frog:
“And once you get that map out, you won’t be able to refold it no matter how smart you are. So forget the map, roll down the windows, and whenever you can, pull over and have a picnic with a pig. And if you can help it, never fly as cargo.”
~ Kermit the Frog, social commentator and expert on being green
And now… drum roll, please. When we started researching the best graduation advice, we assumed our #1 pick would come from a former president, Nobel Prize winner, or influential philosopher. Or maybe Oprah. We were wrong. The best line came from none other than rock legend, Bono. Which just goes to show – you can make a difference in people’s lives, no matter which career you choose.
Here’s our #1 Best Line from a Graduation Speech:
“This is the time for bold measures and this is the country and you are the generation… That degree of yours is a blunt instrument – go forth and build something with it.”
~ Bono, singer, musician, businessman and philanthropist
Of course, in a blog about graduation advice, we’d be remiss if we didn’t refer back to that classic “song” released in 1999, by Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)." If you haven’t heard it, check it out on YouTube. Interesting fact: the song started life as an essay written by columnist Mary Schmich, for the Chicago Tribune. It went viral, and was often erroneously described as a commencement speech given by author Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet…
In closing, graduates: Congratulations! Now go out and build something, change history, picnic with a pig, and always wear sunscreen.