The Most Inspiring Commencement Speeches of All Time

Explore speeches that have left a lasting impact.



(Sharkshock /

As the ceremonial cap-tossing moment approaches, graduates find themselves on the threshold of a new chapter, filled with anticipation and uncertainty. It is in this pivotal moment that commencement speeches make their most profound impact. The best speeches transcend mere words, offering a blend of guidance, wisdom, and inspiration that resonates deeply. They serve as beacons of hope and motivation, illuminating the path for young minds about to embark on their journeys into the wider world. These addresses have the power to stir hearts, provoke thought, and inspire action, leaving an indelible mark on both graduates and all who hear them.

The greatest commencement speeches tap into universal truths, reminding us of the potential within each individual to achieve greatness, confront challenges head-on, and contribute meaningfully to society. They encapsulate a moment of transformation, offering not just advice, but a call to action that echoes long after the applause has faded. For graduates poised on the brink of the unknown, these words provide both a mirror and a map, reflecting their potential and guiding their steps forward. In these moments, speakers imbue their messages with a sense of purpose and possibility, inspiring all who listen to dream bigger and strive harder.

Steve Jobs

2005 Stanford University

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”


J.K. Rowling

2008 Harvard University 

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”

Sheryl Sandberg

COO of Facebook and Founder of Lean In
2011 Barnard College

“…remember this:  You are awesome.  I’m not suggesting you be boastful. No one likes that in men or women.  But I am suggesting that believing in yourself is the first necessary step to coming even close to achieving your potential.”

Naval Adm. William H. McRaven

Ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations Command
2014 University of Texas, Austin 

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. “If  you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”


TV Host and Actress
2008 Stanford University

“So, I say to you, forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart and success will come to you.”