The 10 most memorable commencement speakers

Did Dr. Seuss, Will Ferrell or Anderson Cooper speak at your graduation? If not, here’s the best of their—and others—commencement speeches.

Do you remember your college commencement speaker?

According to an unscientific poll conducted by Good.com for a recent article, most people don’t remember who spoke at their graduation. Chances are whoever did speak rambled on about “good job,” “good luck,” and something about “the future” in their speech. While those expressions are nice, they are overused and not memorable.

While it may be too late for you to have an engaging, spunky and unforgettable commencement speaker, Good.com put together a list of the “Top 10 commencement speakers you wish you’d had.” Here they are, with a distinctive quote from each one:

1. Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

2. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), Lake Forest College, 1977

“And as you partake of the world’s bill of fare, that’s darned good advice to follow. Do a lot of spitting out the hot air. And be careful what you swallow.”

3. J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008

“…failure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

4. Bono, University of Pennsylvania, 2004

“So my question I suppose is: What’s the big idea? What’s your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside of the walls of the University of Pennsylvania?”

5. Wynton Marsalis, Northwestern University, 2009

“Blues is survival music. Congratulations y’all. You have survived. And in this moment, perfect in both its accomplishment and its potential, we stand on the threshold of your liberation—and I suspect your parents’ as well.”

6. Anderson Cooper, Tulane University, 2010

“…I realized that I don’t need to give you advice, I don’t need to try and teach you a lesson. The truth is, your class has taught me a lesson. You’re the class that came after Katrina … A lot of folks probably said you were nuts to commit to New Orleans … But you came anyway. You took a chance. You made a tough choice, but look at you now, look at what you’ve accomplished not just for yourselves, but for New Orleans.”

7. Will Ferrell, Harvard University, 2003

“Graduates, if you will indulge me for a moment, let me paint a picture of what it’s like out there … You’re about to enter a world filled with hypocrisy and doublespeak, a world in which your limo to the airport is often a half-hour late. In addition to not even being a limo at all; often times it’s a Lincoln Towncar.”

8. Ursula K. Le Guin, Bryn Mawr College, 1986

“Our schools and colleges, institutions of the patriarchy, generally teach us to listen to people in power … and so they teach us not to listen to … what the powerless say, poor men, women, children: not to hear that as valid discourse. I am trying to unlearn these lessons, along with other lessons I was taught by my society, particularly lessons concerning the minds, work, works, and being of women.”

9. Jon Stewart, College of William and Mary, 2004

“Let’s talk about the real world for a moment … I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is as good a time as any. I don’t really know how to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it. Please don’t be mad … But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people.”

10. David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College, 2005

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

Read the full article here.

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