Commencement Lessons: 15 Great Pieces of Advice from College Graduation Speeches

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To all recent college and graduate school graduates: congratulations! For many, the beginning of summer marks the end of the academic journey, and across the country and the world young people will be transitioning from their student life into their careers. However, college is first and foremost a learning experience, and this is true up through your final day as a student – oftentimes college commencement addresses can provide insightful, inspirational advice for students who are seeking to launch their careers. And so, with that in mind, below you will find some of our favorite quotes from college graduation speeches of 2017 – whether these speak directly to your career aspirations, or more broadly to your approach to life, we are confident that taking these quotes to heart can help all students and grads in their personal and professional lives. Good luck to you all!

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We are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is a muscle and that means we can build it. We build resilience into ourselves. We build it into the people we love. And we build it together, as a community.
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; author of Lean In, Virginia Tech

There is nothing more powerful than using your personality to serve the calling of your soul.
– Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host; Producer; Philanthropist, Skidmore College

We can never allow our inability to do everything to undermine our determination to do something.
– Cory Booker, US Senator – NJ, University of Pennsylvania

We must participate and not retreat. We can be reconciled through our service and sacrifice for one another.
– David O. Brown, Former Chief of Dallas Police Department, University of Texas

Don’t be afraid of your ambition, of your dreams, or even your anger – those are powerful forces. But harness them to make a difference in the world.
– Hillary Clinton, Former First Lady; Former Senator; Presidential Candidate, Wellesley College

Learn to embrace failure – not only embrace failure, get good at it, and by that I mean get back up, apply what you’ve learned, and hit reset.
– Martin Casado, Co-founder of Nicira Networks; partner at Andreesen Horowitz, Northern Arizona State University

It is my firm belief that success in business, and in life, is best when it’s shared.
– Howard Schultz, Former CEO of Starbucks, Arizona State University

You can go slow. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.
– Kumail Nanjiani, Comedian/Actor/Writer; Grinnell College

Comparing yourself to others’ success only slows you down from finding your own. Remember, no one came here the same way, and you won’t all achieve success the same way.
– Octavia Spencer, Actress, Kent University

Talk about your accomplishments. Be humble, but not too humble.
– Pharrell Williams, Musician, New York University

Remember, in hours of joy and of darkness, that a life well lived is judged not by the bottom line but by the big picture.
– Jon Meacham, Former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek; Pulitzer Prize Winning biographer, Middlebury College

Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.
– Will Ferrell, Comedian/Actor/Writer, University of Southern California

Grit doesn’t mean ‘keep doing the thing that’s failing’. It means ‘define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail’.
– Adam Grant, Wharton Professor; Author, Utah State University

Create. Don’t wait around for people to give you things to do. If you’re a writer, write; artist, paint; builder, build! Opportunities will come to you if you create them.
– Maz Jobrani, Comedian/Actor/Writer, University of California Berkeley

Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.
– Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Facebook, Harvard