21 of the Most Memorable Celebrity Commencement Speeches
Helen Mirren (Tulane University, May 20, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: “Today’s speech will contain advice for any of you born in England who decide to become Shakespearean actresses, and end up doing nude scenes in 10 films. I mentioned that just to see if any of your fathers are getting out their cellphones now to Google me. Dads. Stop. Inappropriate. Put it away. I mean the phone!”
Kenya Barris ( Tufts University, May 21, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: "If a C student with a neck tattoo can be giving your commencement speech, and a six-time bankrupt former steak-selling reality star can be president of the United States, then, literally, anything is possible. So go out and make it happen!"
Jon Bon Jovi (Fairleigh Dickinson University, May 16, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: "Don't take anything personally. Accept both praise and criticism equally, but take neither to heart. There are many surprises awaiting you on the journey."
Oprah Winfrey (Agnes Scott College, May 13, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: “You’re nothing if you’re not the truth. I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life – I’ve made a fortune, really – all good! – from being true to myself. If I can leave you with any message today: The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good, you can get a lot of great shoes!”
Janelle Monáe (Dillard University, May, 13, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: “And so on this day graduates of 2017, I celebrate you as you remember the power of grace and pride, and I challenge you to choose freedom over fear.”
Will Ferrell (University of Southern California, May 12, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: "To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do with your life, congratulations. For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. That’s the same chair that I sat in. 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."
Octavia Spencer (Kent State University, May, 13, 2017)
Most Memorable Quote: “The excitement of today is about to become a memory, and you will have to join the rest of us in a world where there are no more graduations. It’s your turn to choose and define what success means to you. Now, others will try to define it for you, but yours is the only voice that matters.”
Matt Damon (MIT, June 3, 2016)
Most Memorable Line: “You’ve got to suit up in your armor. You’ve got to get ready to sound like a total fool. Not having an answer isn’t embarrassing — it’s an opportunity."
Hank Azaria (Tufts University, May 22, 2016)
Most Memorable Line: “Please be honest with yourself about what you think and how you feel about all of that, what you like and dislike, what angers you or scares you or saddens you or inspires you or delights you. Those feelings are called your instincts, and you ignore them at your own peril.”
Spike Lee (Johns Hopkins University, May 18, 2016)
Most Memorable Quote: "Now’s the time to seize the day, take advantage of this unique moment in history, and build bridges amongst us. Talking about gender, race, religion, and nations, not walls. Let us build bridges of love, versus walls of hate."
Lin-Manuel Miranda (University of Pennsylvania, May 16, 2016)
Most Memorable Quote: "My dear terrified graduates, you are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives. The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children, and grandchildren, and therapists.”
Ryan Seacrest (University of Georgia, May 13, 2016)
Most Memorable Quote: "Make sure you happen to the day instead of it happening to you, but no matter the circumstances, you still only get one shot to make a day that matters."
Stephen Colbert (Wake Forest University, May 18, 2015)
Most Memorable Line: “Do yourself a favor: Be an easy grader. Score yourself on a curve. Give yourself extra credit. You have the power. You are your own professor now. Which I know is a little creepy because that means you’re showering with your professor. But you have tenure. They can’t fire you.”
Sean Combs (Howard University, May 10, 2014)
Most Memorable Quote: “I want you take the craziest dream you ever had, that dream that you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone about. And I want you to go after it.”
Whoopi Goldberg (Savannah College Of Art And Design, June 4, 2011)
Most Memorable Quote: "Believe and be you. Be unique. Be prepared to be alone sometimes when you’re unique. It’s not a bad thing. You could travel with the sheep, follow everybody else’s stuff but then you’re not you. I guess if I want to say anything it’s 'Be you.' Be true to you and that should make the ride a little more interesting."
Conan O’Brien (Dartmouth, June 12, 2011)
Most Memorable Quote: “No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you. In 2000, I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that. But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”
Meryl Streep (Barnard College, May 17, 2010)
Most Memorable Quote: "This is your time and it feels normal to you but really there is no normal. There’s only change, and resistance to it and then more change."
Dwayne Johnson (University of Miami, Dec. 17, 2009)
Most Memorable Quote: “Don’t be lulled into the complacency of accepting a future or path that’s just okay and mediocre. It will seep into every aspect of your life. And just okay and mediocre is not the path of a Miami Hurricane. Your path, when rooted firmly in passion, will be filled with the most powerful catalyst to greatness, inspired action. I tell you this from my heart, graduates. My life is all about inspired action.”
Ellen DeGeneres (Tulane University, May 16, 2009)
Most Memorable Quote: “For many of you, today, success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way. So to conclude my conclusion, follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means you should follow that.”
Warren Beatty (UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, May 21, 2005)
Most Memorable Line: "Now, with the podium of the Internet and the new technology, everybody has more access. My advice to you is that if you don't use it for more dialectic and more argument and enjoy the sound of your own voice on public policy - it's a shame, you may have wasted your time here."
Bono(University of Pennsylvania, May 17, 2004)
Most Memorable Quote: "Whether it’s this or something else, I hope you’ll pick a fight and get in it. Get your boots dirty, get rough, steel your courage…, make one last primal scream, and go. Sing the melody line you hear in your own head. Remember, you don’t owe anybody any explanations. You don’t owe your parents any explanations. You don’t owe your professors any explanations."