14 Life Lessons From 2015 Commencement Speeches

These words to live by don’t just apply to recent grads.


Trust Yourself

Photo by AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

“I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves. I want you to ask those basic questions: Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back? And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.” – First Lady Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University


Don’t Let Others Judge You 

“As you go out in the world, you’ll find that people are always quick to define you, to pigeonhole you, to whittle you down to their preconceived notionswhich brings me to my point: Never let others define you. Define yourselves.” – Actor Ed Helms at the University of Virginia


Take Action

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“The sidelines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena. There are problems that need to be solved. Injustices that need to be ended. People that are still being persecuted. Diseases still in need of cure. No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy, your passion, your impatience for progress. Don't shrink from risk. And tune out those critics and cynics. History rarely yields to one person, but think, and never forget, what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.” – Apple CEO Tim Cook at The George Washington University


Follow Your Intuition 

“From this day forward, you will have to rely not on grades or guidance from professors to tell you how you’re doing and where you stand. You will have to rely, instead, on an inner compass; whether that compass is true will determine whether you become a drifter who is blown about by every breeze; or a doer, an active citizen determined to chart your own course, question your assumptions, and, when necessary, sail unafraid against strong winds.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Tufts University


Be Yourself

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“Only authenticity will keep your head on straight and your feet firmly planted. So don’t strive for somebody else’s notion of perfection. It’s an unattainable and ultimately ridiculous goal. Strive instead to be uniquely yourself. And, when in doubt, listen to your gut, because it already knows what you want to become.” – Journalist and TV Host Meredith Vieira at Boston University


It’s Okay to Fake It

“First, and this is foundational, if you want to change the world, start by ‘acting as if.’ Prior generations have put this a different way‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’” – US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power at University of Pennsylvania


Don’t Stop Learning

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“Keep reaching. Keep seeking. Keep using your abilities to bring out the best in those around you, and let them bring out the best in you. Become the next great generation! You can and you will—dare I say it, change the world!” – Scientist Bill Nye at Rutgers University


Create Your Own Set of Standards 

“People my age will sometimes say to you, ‘Hey, that work you did, that thing you said, that cause you championed, it’s not good.’ Well, having your own standards will help you weather moments like that. Having your own standards allows you to perceive success where others may see failure.” – TV Host Stephen Colbert at Wake Forest University


Take Some Time to Really Think

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“Now is the time to consider all the infinite possibilities with introspection, deliberation and thoughtfulness. Visualize the road ahead. Think about what excites you, what really gets your engine going. Engage in some real soul searching. Take a good, hard look at your strengths and weaknesses. A fulfilling professional life can be found at the intersection of what you love and what you’re good at. And when you think you’ve discovered it, go at it full throttle.” – Journalist Katie Couric at University of Wisconsin-Madison


Be “Present” at Work

“Don’t waste time bemoaning your job. Don’t skim by with the minimum of effort. Dive in. Get more from your job than the paycheck. Hard work is living large.” – Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at Saint Anselm College


Put in The Hard Work

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“Life’s not easy. Don’t try and make it that way. It’s not fair, it never was, it isn’t now, it won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling you are a victim, you are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get them.” – Actor Matthew McConaughey at the University of Houston


Keep an Open Mind 

“So if I must give any of you advice it would be Say Yes. Say Yes, And… and create your own destiny.” – Actress Maya Rudolph at Tulane University


A Diploma Isn’t the Only Thing That Matters

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“Don’t forget about what doesn’t come from this prestigious diplomathe heart to know what’s meaningful and what’s ephemeral; and the head to know the difference between knowledge and judgment.” – Vice President Joe Biden at Yale University


Don’t Let Fear Get in the Way

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“Don’t worry about the fear factor. Everybody in here has felt it and will feel it. It is something that you have to realize that if you wait for it to pass you’re going to be sitting on the sidelines for a very long time.” – Journalist Robin Roberts at Emerson College