Memorable Commencement Speeches of all Times
It's that time of the year again when graduates line up to receive certificates and throw their graduation caps in the air; in a way, throwing off the shackles of the school they just finished and celebrating the feeling of success. Commencement speeches come in two varieties - forgettable and unforgettable. Highly touted as the most memorable speech for the 2014 season was Harvard Business School's Casey Gerald, who cut such a swath with his commencement address that he overshadowed the official invited speaker (Khan Academy founder Salman Khan). Gerald spoke movingly about a near-death experience with armed gunmen in his hometown of Dallas, and how that changed his life forever. "A strange thing happened as I accepted that I was about to die: I stopped being afraid." He then decided to "give my life to a cause greater than myself."
Cause A Change
After arriving at Harvard Business School from Yale, Gerald said that HBS "changed who we were; it reminded us that we didn't have to wait until we were rich or powerful, or until we actually knew finance, to make a difference. We could act right now."
With three classmates, Gerald founded a non-profit, MBA's Across America, which is a movement of MBAs and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize America.
Some might say Casey Gerald has arrived. Yet Gerald says his journey has just begun.
"No, my friends, we have more work to do, hard work, frightening work, uncertain work and unending work, work that may test us, work that may defeat us, work for which we may not get the credit but work for which the whole world depends. I say, let us begin," he concluded.
Never Stop Learning
A similarly moving speech was given by Steve Jobs when he spoke at Stanford in 2005.
"You’ve got to find what you love…your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
In the same speech, Jobs shared his experience directing his own education. Having dropped out of college, Jobs took it upon himself to sit in on classes he found interesting. He told the story of auditing a “fascinating” calligraphy course, though at the time he had no application for it. Ten years later he designed the Mac, creating, “the first computer with beautiful typography…multiple-type faces [and] proportionately spaced fonts,” claiming no personal computer would have these innovations had he not dropped in on that one calligraphy class.
Follow Your Passion
Likewise, self-education innovator, Salman Khan had much to say about following one's passion when he spoke at Rice University in 2012. He exhorted the graduates to stay true to themselves, stating:
“The next 10 years are your chance to ask the naïve questions which you’ll later learn are actually the profound questions. The ones that are actually going to be the game-changers. It’s your chance to really invest in yourself.”
Graduation is a great time of the year to get inspired. It's also the start of something. . . hopefully, something new, exciting and fresh.