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TLV: This Year's Best Graduation Speeches
June 29, 2019

 
It’s that time of year when we get to hear pearls of wisdom from this year’s crop of commencement speakers.
We’re never too old to feel bright eyed and bushy tailed.
 

This Year's Best Graduation Speeches
 
You cannot dream of becoming something you do not know about.
You have to learn to dream big.”
- Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor at Manhattan College

Robert F. Smith at Morehouse College
Even if you heard about billionaire Robert F. Smith’s commencement address to Morehouse graduates—because of his jaw-dropping commitment to pay all of their college loans—it’s still well worth watching. His speech is moving and elucidating, but seeing the overjoyed shock on so many faces when he declares his magnanimous gift is about as good as it gets.
 
 
Savannah Guthrie at George Washington University
“Today Show” host Savannah Guthrie gives a prototypical graduation speech. It’s chock full of clichés and advice for those on the precipice of adulthood. Yet there’s enough sweetness and heart that it works. Listen and try not to be taken back to your own graduation and the mix of excitement and fear stirring in you as you looked into the vast unknown… 
 

DeVon Franklin at USC Marshall School of Business
Movie producer, author, and USC Marshall alum DeVon Franklin wins for the most energetic speech of 2019, hands down. His four tips to be successful in business feel more like an impassioned Sunday sermon, and the audience loved it.
 
 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Loyola Marymount University
Six-time NBA champ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivers twelve sage and funny pieces of advice to graduates. Also fun is watching two men of average height attempt to put the doctorate of humane letters sash around his above-average-height shoulders.
 
 
Peggy Noonan at University of Notre Dame
Well you don’t see this every commencement season—a conservative thinker and former speechwriter for President Reagan espousing the wisdom of conservative philosophy. Peggy Noonan, who won a Pulitzer for her 2016 election reporting, lays out her vision for a conservatism that can confront today’s problems while remaining rooted in love of country.
 
 
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at American University
Bestselling author and MacArthur Fellow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie breaks her own writing rule of avoiding clichés, as they bring little more than tired and trite words to copy. Yet the cliché, she says, is democratic by definition. Adichie, then, turns a few well-worn clichés on their heads to reveal a deeper wisdom for graduates.
 

Justice Sotomayor at Manhattan College
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor believes deeply in education. She has seen it transform lives and communities by introducing people to new perspectives and new dreams. It’s at its best, though, when you give what you’ve learned, in big ways and small, in service to your community. [Start at 1 hour and 29 minutes.]
 
 
Doug Parker at Southern Methodist University
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker urges graduates not to let our polarization become a new normal. “So much of what divides us,” he says, “is our ignorance of each other.” His antidote is also his version of “The Graduate’s” most notorious line: “plastics.” In a word, he tells graduates: “travel.” Travel to learn new ways of being while seeing that we are all more similar than not. 
 
 

Put peanut butter on everything.”
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Loyola Marymount University
 
2019 Honorable Mentions 
 
Kristen Bell at USC School of Dramatic Arts
The beloved actress speaks about how leading with nice always wins and always comes back to you just when you need it.
 
Tim Cook at Stanford University
The Apple CEO takes direct aim at Google and Facebook as he warns us about companies that seek to use our data in surreptitious ways.
 
Jennifer Garner at Denison
The effervescent actress returns to her alma mater to give graduates a mix of wise advice (“Insist on optimism. Fight for what makes you optimistic about the world.”) and funny advice (“When it comes to Halloween costumes, go funny over sexy. Why would you dress like a flirty nurse when you could be a mailbox?”). [Start at 1 hour and 3 minutes.]     
 
David Brooks at University of New Hampshire
The New York Times columnist says some generations are called to war to defend country. These graduates, he says, are being called to live with vulnerability and emotion in service of re-forging social connections and stemming the tide of isolation in the digital age.
 
Oprah at Colorado College
How does the most sought-after commencement speaker come up with something new to say year after year? Somehow, she does.
 
In Case You Missed It
 
This Year's Best Graduation Speeches: 2018 Edition
June 23, 2018
 
TLV Industry: We Need MORE Capitalism, Not Less
June 14, 2019
 
TLV Careers: Long Live Late Bloomers
May 13, 2019
 

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