“Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth… will also become the raw material for the art you make.”

 New York-based visual artist and recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 2005 Genius Grant, Teresita Fernandez delivered the commencement address titled: “On Amnesia, Broken Pottery, and the Inside of a Form” to the graduating 2013 class at her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. Teresita served as a presidential appointee to Barack Obama’s U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, distinguishing her the first Latina to serve in that role.

There are some people, who don’t wait. I don’t know exactly what’s going on inside them; but they have this hunger. It’s almost like an ache.

 American radio and television Journalist  Robert Krulwich delivered the 2011 Commencement Address to the graduating students at the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Robert Krulwich 2011 Commencement Speech Transcript:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. 

American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman delivered the commencement speech to the 1974 Caltech California Institute of Technology graduate students. He titled the speech “The Cargo Cult Science“.

I have just one wish for you—the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity.  May you have that freedom. 

A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip: All you need is one person to say “Get in” and off you go. And then the confidence begins.

American filmmaker John Waters delivered the commencement address for the Rhode Island School of Design’s graduating class of 2015. The speech inspired – the Make Trouble book which contains inspiring advice for artists, graduates, and all who seek happiness and success on their own terms.

Sing the melody line you hear in your own head, remember, you don’t owe anybody any explanations, you don’t owe your parents any explanations, you don’t owe your professors any explanations.

Lead singer of U2 and co-founder of DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) Bono delivered the University of Pennsylvania 248th Commencement Address to the Class of 2004 at historic Franklin Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Monday May 17, 2004.

“Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less PLANNING and more LIVING — to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just DO stuff.”

Author and cultural critic Daniel Pink addressed the 2014 graduating class at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; Pink is a 1986 linguistics graduate of the University and holds a J.D. from the Yale Law School.

Top-rated television show host and New Orleans native Ellen DeGeneres was the keynote speaker at Tulane University’s 2009 Commencement. This was the graduation of the “Katrina Class” that entered in Fall 2005.

As you grow, you’ll realize the definition of success changes. For many of you, today, success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way. So to conclude my conclusion, follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means you should follow that.

Sometimes the circumstances at hand force us to be braver than we actually are, and so we knock on doors and ask for assistance.

Author Ann Patchett delivered the commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater, in 2006. Her speech was expanded to a book – What Now? Which contains essays on hope and inspiration for anyone at a crossroads, whether graduating, changing careers, or transitioning from one life stage to another.

If all fairy tales begin “Once upon a time,” then all graduation speeches begin “When I was sitting where you are now.” We may not always say it, at least not in those exact words, but it’s what graduation speakers are thinking. We look out at the sea of you and think, Isn’t there some mistake? I should still be sitting there. I was that young fifteen minutes ago, I was that beautiful and lost. For me this feeling is compounded by the fact that Sarah Lawrence was my own alma mater.

“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen was supposed to deliver the commencement address to the graduating students at Villanova University on Friday, 23 June 2000. She withdrew as commencement speaker because of a planned staged protest against her strong liberal views, especially her support for abortion rights. Quindlen later distilled the speech into a book: A Short Guide to a Happy Life

“I don’t think you should have to walk through demonstrators to get to your college commencement,”

Anna Quindlen’s 2000 Commencement Address Transcript:

“The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive.”

On May 20, 1990, American cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking speech at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, the 1990 graduating class.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Bill Watterson’s 1990 Kenyon College Commencement Speech Transcript:

 ‘I wish you luck, because what lies ahead is no picnic for the prepared and the unprepared alike, and you’ll need luck’ 

Russian-American poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky delivered the 1988 winter commencement speech to the graduating students on December 18, 1988. Joseph Brodsky was a Soviet dissident and poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature the year before this speech. He was an American poet laureate in 1991. He died in 1996.

Joseph Brodsky’s University of Michigan 1988 Commencement Speech Transcript

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. 

Michael S. Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell, the computer company he founded in 1984 with $1,000 and built into a multibillion-dollar global corporation, delivered the commencement address for the 120th spring commencement at The University of Texas at Austin on May 17 2003

 I’m talking about never measuring your success based on the success of others – because you just might set the bar too low.

Michael Dell’s 2003 University of Texas Commencement Speech Transcript