Inspirational Words of Wisdom: 2014 Graduation Speeches


inssGraduation season just wrapped up. Below are a few of my favorite commencement speakers from this year’s graduation ceremonies.  I invite all of you to listen and soak in their words of wisdom because we can learn from the people who have “been there and done that.” The “Whoa Moments”of each speech are specific parts that have resonated with me. Photo


1. Shonda Rhimes- Screenwriter, Producer and Director (Dartmouth College)

Theme: Be Proactive

Whoa Moments:

I think a lot of people dream, and while they are busy dreaming the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people are busy doing (6:47).

The dreamers, they stare at the sky and they make plans, and they hope, and they talk about it endlessly, and they start a lot of sentences with I want to be or I wish… But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. Its hard work that makes things happen and its hard work that creates change. (7:03)

The truth is it [your passion] doesn’t matter, you don’t have to know, you just have to keep moving forward. Just keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real, just do. (8:02)

Volunteer some hours, focus on something outside yourself, devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week…it will allow you to remember whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college the air you are breathing right now is rare air, appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.  (15:44)

How do you do it all?…I don’t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life…Anyone who tells you that they are doing it all perfectly is a liar. (18:00)

2. Charlie Day- Actor, Producer and Screenwriter (Merrimack College)

Theme: Betting on Yourself

Whoa Moments:

I don’t give a shit. You cannot let a fear of failure or a fear of comparison or a fear of judgment stop you from doing what is going to make you great. You cannot succeed without this risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism, and you cannot love without the risk of loss. You must go out and take these risk. (16:54)

People will tell you do what makes you happy. But a lot of this has been hard work, and I’m not always happy. And I don’t think you should do what makes you happy. I think you should do what makes you great. Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard, but pays off in the long run. (17:40)

Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in the way and in the place you would want to fail. Fail, pick yourself up, and fail again, because without this struggle what is your success? (17:54)

As best we know it, we have one life. In it, you have to trust your own voice, your own ideas, your honesty, your vulnerability, and through this you will find your way. You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you. Live like this the best you can and I guarantee you will look back on a life well lived. (18:09)


3. José Andrés- Chef (George Washington University)

Theme: A Recipe for Life

Whoa Moments:

I realized then, if I want to reach my dreams first I had to lay down the foundation… You may want to do the cooking, but first you must learn how to build the fire. (6:47)

It’s not about having a high paying job, big houses, fast cars; there is nothing wrong with that. But the new American Dream is bigger. It’s about achieving your success while also making an impact in the world. What you create for yourselves, you must also create for others. We need to know ourselves, embrace our individuality; but it’s not only the I, it is the We. (10:29)

There will always be critics and naysayers telling you what you cannot do, that it is impossible. There will always be more people bringing you down, than lifting you up. It seems that way sometimes. But, let me tell you, get a cocktail shaker. Add your heart, your soul, your brain, your instinct, and shake it hard. Serve it straight up. But, let me give you a secret ingrediant– add a dash of the cristisim on top. Because those naysays play an important role too. They motivate you to raise above, to challenge yourself, to prove them wrong (14:17)

When we go by the book, we lose our ability to adapt, to be creative. Sometimes you’ll find yourself without an ingrediant or two. It’ll seem like everything is going wrong. If things don’t go as expected, make the unexpected work in your favor. Chage the name of the dish. (16:18)

Don’t imitate what has already been done. Don’t go along with someone else’s expectatios for what your life should look like. Don’t assume that because things have always been a certain way, they will never be any different. (17:00)

Success is no longer about achieving your goals, it is about using your skills and talents to do something bigger in the world. (17:42)

4. Sean Combs (P. Diddy)- Rapper, Record Producer and Business Man (Howard University)

Theme: Do You Know How Powerful You Are?

Whoa Moments:

…Either I was going to sit in that failure and give up or I was going to make a decision to step out of the darkness. You see when you are in that darkness you want to sit there and wait for the light to come. When you are in that darkness it feels uncomfortable, but you can’t wait and sit in that darkness. The only way out is to step forward, to face your fears, to become your own light. I had to make a decision; I had to decide to become my own light. I had to believe in myself like never before. I had to find my inner power (28:29)

For a lot of people the distance between their dreams and reality is intimidating and they get stuck; they get paralyzed…The only way forward is to be real about what it’s going to take for you to achieve those dreams. You have to be honest with yourself. You have to tell yourself the truth. You have to tell yourself the truth of what it’s going to take for you to be successful. It doesn’t come easy. You’re going to have to go out there and get it. Nobody is going to give you nothing…The only way forward is to decide you want that dream so bad that you’re going to work harder, you’re going to get up earlier, you are going to stay later, you are going to push past the people who doubted you and laughed at you and hated on you (32:30).

Make that decision today that when you’re in the darkness you are going to remember the power of you. You are your own light (34:06).

5. Jim Carrey (Maharishi University)

Theme: Love, Fear and Faith

Whoa Moments:

Fear is going to be a player in your life. But you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here and the decisions we make in this moment wich is either based in love or fear. (10:12)

How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out…The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is because everything you will gain in life will rot and fall apart and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart.  (13:39)

To find real peace you have to let the armor go. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory. (15:52)

The imagination is always manufacturing scenarios both good and bad and the ego tries to keep your trapped in the multiplex of the mind. Our eyes are not viewers, they are also projectors that are running a second story over the picture that we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script and the working title is “I’ll never be enough.”…If you listen to it [the ego] there will always be someone doing better than you; no matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the Earth. (20:41)

As far as I can tell, it’s about letting the Universe know what you want and working toward it while letting go about how it comes to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head. When the door opens in real life just walk through it. (23:25)

In case you’ve missed it, check out:

Inspirational Words of Wisdom: 2013 Graduation Speeches

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  1. June 20, 2014
    • June 20, 2014

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