This Is What To Take Away From These 5 Celebrities’ Inspiring Commencement Speeches

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If you recently graduated university or you’re counting down the days, you know what a bittersweet time it is. The past two decades have, hopefully, prepared you for this moment in which you’re to officially start adulting and can longer attribute your age as the reasoning behind your decisions. While high school graduation may have been just as emotional, the transition of leaving behind university entails thinking seriously about how to pay off loans and being decisive about career choices.

Celebrities are no stranger to making appearances at commencement ceremonies as Barack Obama isn’t always available, and while not every celebrity has been to university themselves, they hold some seriously important life advice. While their speeches vary in tone, from serious to jovial, they all contain messages that we need to remind ourselves. Check out some of the speeches celebrities have made at university students’ commencements.


Amal Clooney

The lawyer is proof that you can be both beauty and brains. She spoke to Vanderbilt University’s class of 2018 and emphasized, “At a time when women all over the world face physical abuse, restrictions on their ability to work, own property, travel and even have custody over their children, we need courage. At a time when the LGBT community and every continent struggles for equal rights, freedom from imprisonment and even death, we need courage.”

Clooney makes her feelings about the current presidential administration clear when she points out the White House’s condemning of the media and the lack of national support for refugees. Amal continues, “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.”


Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres addressed the class of 2009 at Tulane University with a lighthearted speech and of course, she kept the crowd laughing. She enunciates the fact that you don’t need to have a major to become successful. After adding tidbits about her adolescence and financial burdens, she concludes, “Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then, by all means, you should follow that. Don’t give advice…don’t take anyone’s advice.”

She finishes off with, “If you don’t remember a thing I said today, remember this, you’re gonna be okay.” With that DeGeneres, shows off her dance moves through the crowd as Lady Gaga‘s Just Dance blares in the background.


Oprah

Oprah made an appearance at Spelman College’s commencement ceremony in 2012. She referenced the civil rights movement and quoted Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King Jr. throughout her speech. As she was addressing a women’s college, she emphasized the power of females, “The storm is passing over and you shall not be moved because you know who you are.” She concludes, “When they see you coming, it ought to make them proud. They’ll say it’s the click of your heels, it’s the bend of your hair, it’s the palm of your hand, it’s the need for your care. Cause you’re a woman.”


Conan O’Brien

O’Brien begins his speech at Dartmouth with a few signature self-deprecating comments and takes a few jabs at Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Jokes aside, he advises, “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.”


Denzel Washington

The actor visited the University of Pennsylvania to speak to the class of 2011. Washington’s son attended the Ivy League which motivated him to accept the school’s invitation.

The actor gives some harsh truths based on his personal experiences in Hollywood, “You will fail at some point in your life…You will suck at something.” He goes on to say, “If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying…To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.” He leaves the class with some words of wisdom, “Because the chances you take, the people you meet, the people you love, the faith that you have, that’s what’s going to define you.”

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