Here’s a sampling of a dozen quotes from commencement addresses through the years that stand out for being unexpected, funny, or truly memorable.
1. Aaron Sorkin to Syracuse University in May 2012
“Make no mistake about it, you are dumb. You’re a group of incredibly, well-educated dumb people. I was there. We all were there. You’re barely functional. There are some screw-ups headed your way. I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they’re a-coming for ya. It’s a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb.”
2. Conan O’Brien to his alma mater Harvard University in May 2000
“As you leave these gates and re-enter society, one thing is certain. Everyone out there is going to hate you. Never tell anyone in a roadside diner that you went to Harvard. In those situations, the correct response to, ‘Where did you go to school?’ is ‘School? I never had much in the way of book learnin’ and such.’ And then get in your BMW and get the hell out of there.”
3. Stephen Colbert to his alma mater Northwestern University in June 2011