2014's best commencement speeches: Puff Daddy, Charlie Day, and more
Commencement speeches can be boring. Just when you think you’re done with lectures, here’s one more person ranting to you about how to live your life as you wait to receive your diploma. But if that person is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day or Sandra Bullock, listening to “follow your heart” becomes much more enjoyable.
Michelle Obama, Jay Leno, and Forest Whitaker were a few of the bigger names lending their wisdom to graduating classes this year, but Day, Bullock, Ed Helms, and Puff Daddy stood out with their humor-tinged but still heartfelt talks. Here are the highlights:
Charlie Day at Merrimack College
Charlie Day may play a cat food-eating, crack-smoking bartender on TV, but in real life, he’s full of wisdom. In his speech at his alma mater, Day spoke about turning down a bank job after graduating college and instead moving to New York City where he would continue to fail but eventually choose making a show with his two buds over taking a role in network show Life On a Stick. As Day points out, he made the right choice: Life On a Stick lasted only one season, while It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is going into its tenth.
Line to remember: “Don’t wait for your break; make your break.”
Sandra Bullock at Warren Eastern Charter High School
Sandra Bullock proves her 4-year-old son is one lucky guy in her short-but-sweet speech: “In the mornings, we turn on the music really, really loud before we leave the house. And the rule is, you have to dance a little bit before you step out into the world because it changes the way you walk.” Her advice to her son, and to these high school graduates, also includes the always-relevant “don’t pick your nose” as well as a call for better hugs. “When someone who cares about you hugs you, hug them back with two arms,” Bullock says. “Because when you hug with two arms, it allows you to lean on somebody, and we always need someone to lean on.” Yes; yes, we do.
Line to remember: “Nothing’s a failure, it’s just not supposed to work out that way, because something better is supposed to come along.”
Puff Daddy at Howard University
Diddy’s is all about how powerful the graduating class at Howard, where he went for two years, is, but the highlight of his speech is when he recounts the story of a time he tried to run a marathon after training for a mere eight weeks (recommended training for a marathon is at least six months). It’s a funny story and yet the rapper still manages to drop some inspirational lines in there: “No one’s gonna take you to the front of the line unless you push your way to the front of the line.” Amen, Diddy.
Line to remember: “Make a decision today that when you’re in the darkness, you’ll remember the power of you. You are your own light.”
Ed Helms at Cornell University
Ed Helms portrayed a ridiculously obnoxious Cornell alum on NBC’s The Office, but that didn’t stop the school from inviting the actor to speak at this year’s commencement. Helms tells graduates to be foolish, saying, “I’m here to tell you that good sense and judgment are highly overrated.” He makes his point by telling a few stories about times he was foolish, including when, as an inexperienced 22-year-old, he offered to direct a music video for some friends. The result? A disastrous experience that Helms says probably looked somewhat beautiful from the outside, like a “mushroom cloud in slow motion.”
Line to remember: “Please, remember to be a fool.”