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Best Advice from This Year’s Commencement Speeches

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While commencement speeches can come across as cheesy and pedantic, it is key to maintain a level of wonder about the world. Here's this year's best commencement speech advice.


The Wall Street Journal released a video on May 25, 2019 with highlights from the commencement speeches this year. It includes inspirational anecdotes from actors, influencers and executives.

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Oprah Winfrey told students at Colorado College to recite her own mantra: “Everything is always working out for me.” Billionaire Robert F. Smith notably announced to students at Morehouse College he would be paying their student loans in a grant from his family. At Barnard College, Viola Davis encouraged students to “own” every part of themselves—even the bad parts.

The transition from a collegiate environment where they were encouraged to seek their interests and find what they were good at to the “real world” can be startling.

In all of the speeches, there is an overwhelming sense of hope and excitement. The video depicts students hugging one another, cheering for the speakers and switching their tassels to the left side once the commencement ceremony is over and they officially graduate.

After the speech is finished, the walk across the staged completed and the celebrations over, come the real challenges. Many recent graduates will move away from the place they called home for the past few years. The struggle to find a job, keep a job and ultimately feel fulfilled in a work environment will begin. It may be a surprise for some young people when they enter the workforce and do not find immediate satisfaction in their career. The transition from a collegiate environment where they were encouraged to seek their interests and find what they were good at to the “real world” can be startling. Once the graduation excitement is over, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy mindset of looking forward to the future with hope.

While commencement speeches can come across as cheesy and pedantic, it is key to maintain a level of wonder about the world. Once students enter the workplace, learning and growing doesn’t have to stop—and it shouldn’t. It can be helpful to incorporate a mechanism of learning new things within the workplace. When we actively include the anticipation of discovering answers to questions into our daily routine, we can stay excited about the potential of the future.

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Take the words of the commencement speeches to heart and remember that the ability to keep your mind fresh and create opportunities for growth doesn’t stop when you graduate. It has only just begun.

Like Actor Ken Jeong told graduates at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, “What is your Act Two? Everyone here has a different timeline. Everyone here has a unique story. Figure out what your Act Two is, and embrace the change, embrace the twists and the unexpected turns. They’ll be good and they’ll be bad, but embrace that.”