“The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever”: A Whole Lotta Wisdom in One Place

Cap and Tassel

According to NPR, I’ve been present for 3 of the best commencement speeches ever given.

Every once in a while, I have a moment when I discover yet another reason why I am exceedingly lucky. It usually sneaks up on me. A good friend sent me this link the other day to an NPR compilation of over 300 of the best commencement speeches ever given in America. It’s so well-indexed that you can search it by name, school, date, and theme. Of course I searched for my Alma mater, the University of Michigan. But I was surprised to find that I’ve attended 3 of the speeches on this list. That’s probably more than almost everyone in America.

Larry Page, the founder of Google, was the commencement speaker of my graduation in 2009. Richard Costolo, the founder of Twitter, was the speaker at my master’s graduation last spring. I believe the University of Michigan was trying to send me a message that pursuing the humanities was the wrong course of action for me. I also got to listen to President Obama’s speech when one of my friends graduated in 2010, which involved a great deal of people laughing hysterically at him chuckling at himself. The man’s got a lot of fans in Ann Arbor.

I have to admit that I didn’t fully appreciate sitting in the stands of the Big House during those speeches, and I suspect the nerves I experienced during those days (and let’s be honest, the several boring minutes involved) have kept me from remembering many of those wise words. For those reasons, I’m really grateful that those moments were recorded and are now available in this impressive list. And I’m glad that other people now have the chance to hear some of the wise words that I’ve heard.

Here are the links to those three speeches, along with my favorite quotes:

Larry Page, 2009

“Find the leverage in the world so you can be truly lazy.”

President Barack Obama, 2010

“Government shouldn’t try to guarantee results but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who’s willing to work hard.”

Richard Costolo, 2013

“When I was your age, we didn’t have the Internet in our pants. We didn’t even have the Internet not in our pants. That’s how bad it was.”

 

 

 

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