A common component of just about every college graduation ceremony is the graduation speech. While many commencement speeches are filled with overworked clichés such as “reach for the stars” or “work hard and your dreams will come true,” others contain more profound bits of wisdom and advice that can serve as a source of inspiration and guidance throughout the graduates’ lives.
Here are a few valuable life lessons gleaned from some of the most famous graduation speeches of all time.
Salman Khan: “Live Life Like It’s Your Second Chance”
As many elderly people approach the end of their lives, they often wish they had done some things differently, only to realize that it’s too late. During his speech to 2012 MIT graduates, Salman Khan urged his audience to look 50 years into the future and think about what their lives might be like.
He reminded us you don’t get a second chance to live again, so it is important to make the most of each moment. That way, you won’t have any regrets at the end.
Neil Gaiman: “Make Good Art and Do Stuff That Only You Can Do”
During his 2012 commencement address to University of the Arts Graduates, British author Neil Gaiman stressed the importance of each student discovering his or her unique talents and developing them to the fullest. He also pointed out that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way, as they can be valuable learning tools that can even open the door to bigger and better opportunities.
Jeff Bezos: “Everything You Are Comes From Your Choices”
In 2010 Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos told Princeton University graduates that everything in life is a choice, and that every decision they make will impact their future in some way. Bezos addressed key areas where students will need to make choices, such as whether they will act boldly or take the safe route, whether they will wilt under criticism or simply brush it off and hold their ground, and whether they will be dreamers who build or cynics who tear down what others have built.
Steve Jobs: “Your Time Is Limited, So Don’t Waste It Living Someone Else’s Life”
Apple founder Steve Jobs told the 2005 Stanford University graduating class that while young people often view themselves as indestructible or even immortal, nobody lives forever. Jobs also pointed out that no matter how indispensable people think they are, they will eventually be pushed aside as a newer, younger generation takes over. He stressed the importance of pursuing one’s own passions and not to worry about what others may think.
Conan O’Brien: “Every Failure Was Freeing”
Comedian Conan O’Brien told the 2000 Harvard graduating class to avoid becoming paralyzed by the fear of failure. O’Brien pointed out that by being afraid to fail, people often miss out on opportunities that can ultimately lead to success. He also cautioned against becoming too comfortable, as this often leads to boredom and stagnation.