Mindy Kaling, Amal Clooney, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and others shared personal stories and messages of hope for graduates
Speaking of graduations, these celebrities have something to say.
Commencement season is in full swing, and with it comes a multitude of advice from various sage speakers. From political figures, businessmen and influential women, 2018’s graduating classes have been subject to plenty of #MeToo mentions, follow-your-dreams themes and the importance of being the change.
And some of the best advice comes from people who have fallen on hard times, like financial analyst Jim Cramer and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. By sharing personal anecdotes and relating to the struggles students face, these public figures gave graduates hope and optimism in an otherwise tumultuous time.
Here are snippets from 10 of the most powerful commencement speeches of 2018:
Mindy Kaling, Dartmouth College
Mindy Kaling returned to her alma mater in Hanover, N.H., to deliver a commencement speech filled with practical advice like having a vision and being extra confident — and, of course, hilarious tidbits urging students to “remove ‘proficient at Word’ from their resume” and “buy a plunger.” The actress and writer specifically addressed female grads, encouraging them to unite instead of competing against each other. “We need to do a better job at supporting each other,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be better if we worked together to dismantle a system that makes us feel that there’s limited room for us?”
Kaling also told grads to tear up their “checklist” of what they think their lives should look like, and instead go with the flow. “Don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order. I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. And on an inspirational note, Kaling advised students to eliminate self-doubt and to stop telling themselves “no” when it comes to tackling their dreams and ambitions and simply ask, “Why Not Me?” (also the title of her latest book). “I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do. I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered, “Why not me?” And I kept whispering it for seventeen years; and here I am, someone that this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your Commencement. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You made it this far. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world.”
Amal Clooney, Vanderbilt University
Speaking at Vanderbilt’s senior day, one of the school’s commencement activities, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney told students: “I think what will define you is your courage, because that is the virtue on which all others depend. When I look at the world today, I see that courage is needed more than ever. My advice isn’t that you have to be Gandhi or Mandela or Martin Luther King, or that you should be a human rights activist or get jobs where the salary decreases at every turn. There will be moments in your life where two roads diverge in the wood; and when that happens, be courageous.”
Oprah Winfrey, USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism
“Put your honor where your mouth is,” the former queen of daytime television and “live your best life” guru told students. “When you give your word, keep it. Do the work. Get your hands dirty. You build a legacy, not from one thing, but from everything.” She also provided a list of practical tips: “Pay your bills on time, make your bed, put your phone away at the dinner table, and get a good mattress — your back will thank you.”
Hillary Clinton, Yale University
While the Yale Law School alumna jokingly referenced her doomed presidential campaign and garnered laughs by bringing along a Russian hat, she also urged students to demonstrate resilience and tolerance. “This is a moment to reach across dividers of race, class and politics to try to see the world through the eyes of people very different from ourselves, and to return to rational debate,” Clinton said.
Chadwick Boseman, Howard University
The “Black Panther” star addressed students at his alma mater by urging them to pursue life with passion and to fight for justice and equality. “The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. Press on with pride and press on with purpose. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history,” said Boseman. As no stranger to struggle himself, Boseman also discussed his personal career path and how he was fired from a job for speaking his mind.
Al Gore, University of Maryland
In his 22-minute speech, the climate-change advocate and former vice president told graduates that “it is what you decide to do with the obstacles that life throws in your path that matters the most,” going on to share enduring advice from a former teacher. “He said, ‘We all face the same choice in life over and over again. It’s the choice between the hard right and the easy wrong. All of us know if we pause and reflect that there is that little voice that is faint but always there, it is always, always a mistake to ignore that little voice. Listen to it and distinguish it from the constant noise in your rationalizing mind and as you practice you may find it easier to discern the good advice that is always with you,’” Gore said.
Jim Cramer, Bucknell University
Speaking in front of his daughter’s graduating class, the former hedge-fund manager and host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” told students that “it’s OK to fail, but it’s not OK to quit.” After sharing his own rags-to-riches story, complete with details of how alcoholism nearly took his life in 1978, Cramer shared, “Your classmates are your safety net. Remember, your stumble is just a pothole in the road for your seated neighbors to help you fill.”
Hamdi Ulukaya, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School
As the keynote speaker for the Wharton MBA graduation, the Chobani CEO reflected on his own experience starting a yogurt company. “Business doesn’t have to be dirty,” he told graduates. “In business, you learn about ROI, return on investment. You should also know ROK: return on kindness. With return on kindness, we can immediately see results.”
Ronan Farrow, Loyola Marymount University
While describing his personal struggles in uncovering the Harvey Weinstein case, Farrow urged the crowd to trust their inner voice. “No matter what you choose to do, no matter what direction you go, whether you are a doctor treating refugees or a financier making money off foreclosures — and I genuinely hope you don’t do that — you will face a moment in your career where you have absolutely no idea what to do. Where it will be totally unclear to you what the right thing is for you, for your family, for your community,” he said. “And I hope in that moment that you’ll be generous with yourself, but trust that inner voice. Because more than ever, we need people to be guided by their own senses of principle, and not the whims of a culture that prizes ambition, and sensationalism, and celebrity, and vulgarity, and doing whatever it takes to win.”
Queen Latifah, Rutgers University — Newark
Upon receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Rutgers-Newark, Queen Latifah talked about how she spent time seeking a role model before she rose to fame — only to realize she was wasting her time. “I didn’t need a role model. I didn’t need to try to be like someone else. I just needed to be me,” she said. “Class of 2018, you need to keep searching for a role model? No. You are the role model. Now go out there and make a difference. Be that difference.”
Tim Cook, Duke University
Apple’s CEO explained why he thinks this is the best time in history to be alive, telling the Class of 2018 that “no generation has ever had more power than yours. And no generation has had a chance to change things faster than yours can.” He also offered this advice: “I urge you to take the power you have been given and use it for good. Aspire to leave this world better than you found it. I didn’t always see life as clearly as I do now. But I’ve learned the greatest challenge of life is knowing when to break with conventional wisdom.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved