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What's in a speech?

| May 25, 2018
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This is an exciting time of year on campuses across the country as colleges and universities graduate their class of 2018.  Nearly 2 million bachelor degrees will be handed out on the campuses of around 5,300 post-secondary institutions.  One of the most anticipated traditions of these graduation ceremonies is the commencement speech, and each year we are treated with snippets from the very best—the inspirational, cautionary, political and humorous.  Here are some that we thought most notable so far, and as always they reflect the tone of the time:

Actor Chadwick Boseman, addressing Howard University:

"The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.  Press on with pride and press on with purpose."

Oprah Winfrey, addressing USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism:

“Here and now, I believe, you have to declare war on one of our most dangerous enemies, and that is cynicism because when that little creature sinks its hooks into you, it’ll cloud your clarity, it’ll compromise your integrity, it’ll lower your standards, it’ll choke your empathy, and sooner or later, cynicism shatters your faith.

Entrepreneur, politician Michael Bloomberg addressing Rice University:

“Recognize that no one, nor either party, has a monopoly on good ideas. Judge events based on what happened, not who did it. Hold yourself and our leaders to the highest standards of ethics and morality.  Respect the knowledge of scientists. Follow the data, wherever it leads. Listen to people you disagree with -- without trying to censor them or shout over them. And have the courage to say things that your own side does not want to hear.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook addressing Duke University:

“Fearlessness means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause.  It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart, more than when you stand with the crowd.  If you step up, without fear of failure… if you talk and listen to each other, without fear of rejection… if you act with decency and kindness, even when no one is looking, even if it seems small or inconsequential, trust me, the rest will fall into place.”

Human Rights lawyer Amal Clooney addressing Vanderbilt University:

"It’s character traits like persistence, ambition, inquisitiveness and grit that will determine your success.  And perhaps more than anything that will define you is your courage. That is the virtue on which all others depend."

Actor Michael Keaton addressing Kent State University:

"I've got two words that I want you all to remember. They're very important, and if I leave you with anything, I'm going to leave you with these two words. And those two words are: 'I'm Batman.'"

Sources:

NCES: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_322.10.asp?current=yes

Time: http://time.com/5274733/oprah-winfrey-speech-usc/ and http://time.com/5275610/apple-tim-cook-duke-commencement/

Elle: https://www.elle.com/culture/celebrities/a20660922/amal-clooney-vanderbilt-commencement-speech-on-courage/

USA Today: https://www.today.com/popculture/michael-keaton-has-two-perfect-words-end-speech-grads-kent-t129232

 

 

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