Thursday, May 30, 2013

5 Inspiring graduation speeches and the wisdom they impart

By Amanda Barrell


In the spirit of spring and graduations, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite speeches and the wisdom they impart, from David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”, Jeff Bezos’ “Gifts and Choices” speech to Princeton grads, to Julie Andrew’s speech at CU’s Spring 2013 Commencement.

David Foster Wallace: 2006 Kenyon College
Wallace was an award-winning writer and novelist.  Though he died in 2008, Wallace left behind some very impactful knowledge, including his 2005 speech to Kenyon College graduates.  Wallace encouraged the importance of awareness and choosing how to think unselfishly in our future mundane lives. 

Perhaps you saw the YouTube video floating around on Facebook in the past few weeks.  The video has since been taken down, but you can check out the text of his speech online. 

Jeff Bezos: 2010 Princeton University
When it comes to admirable figures in modern society and business, Amazon founder Bezos is definitely a forerunner.  Having started Amazon in 1995 as an online bookstore to satisfy the worldwide demand for literature, Amazon.com is now the world’s largest online retailer. 

In his 2010 speech to Princeton graduates, Bezos reinforced the idea that while “cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice” that all graduates should keep in mind in their future endeavors. 

Michael Uslan: 2006 Indiana University 
In his wildest, most secret childhood dream, Uslan desperately desired to write Batman comics.  After a series of very fortunate events and many years of perseverance, Uslan has not only written Batman comics, but has also had a hand in producing every contemporary Batman movie from Tim Burton’s “Batman” to Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”. 

In his 2006 commencement speech to the graduates of his alma mater, Indiana University, Uslan encouraged students to take calculated risks, believe in themselves, persist through frustration and rejection and follow their passion.

Stephen Colbert: 2011 Northwestern University 
Stephen Colbert.  Need I say more?  2011 Northwestern graduates laughed and clapped their way through Colbert’s puns and backhanded praises to his alma mater.  But as the graduates were to learn, Colbert was, “not there to talk about me, I am here to inspire you by talking about me”. 

Colbert’s wisdom to the soon-to-be alumni?  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t achieve your dream.  Remember that you are not the most important person in your life, and whatever you do, you should serve what you love, whether it’s friends, money, community or yourself.

Julie Andrews: 2013 University of Colorado- Boulder 
Oscar and Golden Globe winning actress, author and bestowed honorary “Dame” by Queen Elizabeth II, Andrews has inspired many with her portrayals in film, from sweet, genuine Maria in the Sound of Music to stately Queen Clarisse in the Princess Diaries. 

Of course, like the roles she plays in movies, Andrews couldn’t help but inspire students and audience members in her feel-good commencement speech to 2013 graduates at our very own CU-Boulder.  Wisdom such as “engage in planned acts of kindness” and “when adversity hits, go out and learn something” are just a two of the memorable quotes from her speech.