Some college commencement speeches, a few at least, reach such rarefied heights of rhetoric that the words reverberate long after the caps have been tossed.
Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech to the graduating class of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2012 is now a lovingly crafted book. David Foster Wallace’s hymn to compassion, “This Is Water,” has been turned into a haunting short film eight years after the late writer addressed it to Kenyon College’s graduating seniors:
Will any of the commencement speeches delivered in 2013 offer such lasting wisdom? There already have been some memorable addresses this year, and graduation season isn’t over yet. Here’s a roundup of advice that’s already been given, and some of the notable speeches still to come.
Stephen Colbert, University of Virginia: On Saturday, “The Colbert Show” entertainer delivered both jokes (“You know this is an impressive institution because it rejected my application”) and advice in his speech at the school’s valedictory exercises.
Here’s a snippet of Colbert waxing philosophical:
“You will learn the hard lesson sooner than most generations that you must always make the path for yourself. There is no secret society out there that will tap you on the shoulder one night and show you the way. Your life will not be defined by the society that we have left you.”
President Barack Obama, Ohio State University/Morehouse College/U.S. Naval Academy: On May 5, the president echoed a common theme in his address to Ohio State University’s graduating class -- the difficult prospects Millenials face out in an uncertain world:
"You have been tested and tempered by events that your parents and I never imagined we’d see when we sat where you sit,” the president said.
On Sunday, Obama is delivering remarks to the 2013 graduating class of the historically black, all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta. The dire conditions facing new graduates are particularly grim for African-Americans, a group where unemployment was 12.4 percent in April 2013, compared to 6.2 percent unemployment for whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Later this month, the president will speak at the commencement exercises for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Former President Bill Clinton, Howard University: ““You can't share the future unless you share the responsibility for building it," Clinton told the graduates of the historically black Washington, D.C. university on May 11:
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, University of Michigan: “You know I have to start by Tweeting this,” UM alumnus Costolo joked before the start of his speech on May 4:
Arianna Huffington, Smith College: The Huffington Post founder spoke on Sunday morning to the graduating class from the prestigious all-female school in Massachusetts.
“Every day in every life consists of things that are going well, and things that are going badly,” Huffington told the crowd, according to the news website BostInno. “If we have the power to imagine whatever we want, why don’t we imagine the best? Why don’t we create our own fantasies?”
Nate Silver, The New School: The statistical whiz behind the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog will speak to the 3,100 graduating seniors at the New York City school on May 24.
Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University: The media maven and entrepreneur will be the featured speaker at the Ivy League institution’s commencement exercises on May 30.
Katie Couric, Randolph-Macon College: The ABC News journalist will speak at the Ashland, Va., school on June 1.
Ed Helms, Knox College: The comedian and actor, familiar to fans of “The Daily Show,” “The Office,” and “The Hangover” movie series, will address the graduating class in Galesburg, Ill. on June 8.
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