Invitations to graduation ceremonies and parties show up in my mailbox every day this time of year. While I’m not usually able to attend the events, I am somewhat of a commencement speech goon. I seek out and listen to these speeches year round. It’s a coping mechanism I employ: as a person who spends most of her time making and creating things, I am naturally discouraged, sad, or hopeless with some frequency. And as I navigate problem after problem in a project, I probably have many of the same thoughts and occasional freakouts my students have on graduation day. Bad, good, and extraordinary commencement speeches help–albeit in different ways.
So, for this weekend, here are excerpts from some of the best commencement speeches I have heard. The points made by these masterful rhetoricians have stayed with me year after year. I revisit them as needed.
1). You can fail at what you don’t want by Jim Carrey (29 secs)
2). This is Water by David Foster Wallace (9 mins 22 secs)
3). Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman (19 mins 54 secs)
4). The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J. K. Rowling (20 mins 58 secs)
5). How to Live Before You Die by Steve Jobs (15 mins 04 secs)