The 7 Most Inspiring Commencement Speeches for the Class of 2013

Even if you aren’t a proud member of the graduating class of 2013, you can still be treated to the words of wisdom from the guest speakers at each ceremony.

Stephen Colbert at University of Virginia

If you must find your own path, and we have left you no easy path, then decide now to choose the hard path that leads to the life and the world that you want.

Sprinkled with his usual humor, Stephen Colbert advised the class of 2013 to forge their own path as a generation, and to not worry about what other generations think. He encouraged the University of Virginia community to have the courage and open-mindedness of UVA founder Thomas Jefferson’s generation, to create the world they wish to lead.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Tulane University

Please pay attention to securing your own sense of inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century

The Dalai Lama emphasized the need for hope and happiness over the course of human life.

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President Barack Obama at The Ohio State University

I ask that you persevere. Whether you start a business, or run for office, or devote yourself to alleviating poverty or hunger, please remember that nothing worth doing happens overnight.

The President reminded the Ohio State community that individuals are expected to band together for the good of the nation. He encourages “citizenship”–the reminder that we are a part of a larger system that requires passionate cooperation. Our democracy is dependent on involved, rather than passive, citizens.

Arianna Huffington at Smith College

Commencement speakers are traditionally expected to tell graduates how to go out there and climb the ladder of success, but I want to ask you, instead, to redefine success.

Money and power is not enough to measure success, according to Huffington. Well-being, wisdom, wonder, and empathy are just as important, because individuals, as well as society, cannot sustain without these virtues.

Julie Andrews at CU Boulder

Leave everything you do, every place you go, everything you touch a little better for your having been there.

In her signature beautiful voice, Julie Andrews imparted her wisdom on to the graduating class at Colorado University at Boulder. No stranger to adversity, having lost her ability to sing after botched throat surgery, Andrews advised the class to use fear and adversity as a learning opportunity.

Kerry Washington at The George Washington University

Kerry Washington George Washington University

You and you alone are the only person who can live the life that writes the story that you were meant to tell.

Poised and eloquent, Kerry Washington likened the journey of life to story-telling. She reminds the graduating class that every hero of every story must face trying times and conquer them, so they can emerge stronger than before. And so, the hard times and failures are necessary parts of everyone’s story.

Neil deGrasse Tyson at Rice University

Your diploma is not a ticket to show off what you know…it’s permission to admit to yourself how much you still have yet to learn.

The astrophysicist focused on space travel and John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go to The Moon” speech, held at Rice University 50 years ago. By going to the moon Tyson says, “We discovered Earth for the first time”. The EPA, Earth Day, Doctors Without Borders and even more were all established in the years following the publication of the Earthrise photo taken in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. He urges the class of 2013 to be exploratory for the sake of discovery and to develop a new perspective, for the betterment of society.

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