As summer shifts into gear, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite spring commencement addresses of 2017.
From athletes and entertainers to philanthropists and policy analysts, this year’s crop of speakers offered insights gleaned from lives lived in pursuit of passion and fulfillment and keenly aware of the hidden beauty of a little (or a lot) of failure along the way.
“What is education for? Today we have a different answer. To grow and flourish as human beings, to cultivate the gardens of our minds, hearts, and souls. To learn not only to reason, but also to feel, to tap and acknowledge our emotions, with all their component parts, and give them the room and respect they deserve. As we come to understand the fullness of our own humanity, we are better able to see and connect to the humanity of others. Together, a world of infinite possibility awaits.”
-Anne-Marie Slaughter, President/CEO, New America, International Lawyer, Foreign Policy Analyst
“It’s important to have an open heart and mind and get to know people who don’t look like you or sound like you, because they’re going to challenge you.”
-Billie Jean King, Tennis Champion, LGBTQIA Advocate
“Greatness isn’t born, it’s developed. Greatness is a decision that you make, and you make that decision every single day in everything you do, no matter how small… Reach for greatness, nothing less, and make sure you have some fun along the way. Life should never be boring.’’
-Steven Van Zandt, Guitarist, E Street Band, Human Rights Advocate
“I implore you Class of 2017, do not be overwhelmed or paralyzed or discouraged. Now, perhaps more than ever, you cannot afford to wait for perfect solutions, for silver bullets. They are not out there. You cannot afford to wait until your passion is perfectly defined. There is too much to do until then. Put your head down and begin …pursuing… just a bit more fairness, a bit more justice, a bit more kindness. Never underestimate the sublime value of lifting up one life, of changing the way one person feels.”
-Abigail Wexner, Philanthropist, Ohio State Trustee
“You want to cultivate an openness to the world, to start the daily good work of being alive with the presumption that you still need to learn things, not teach them. You need to start your conversations with a welcoming stance of anticipation, not a defensive crouch. Assume the person you’re speaking with knows something you don’t, and be eager to learn it.”
-Nick Offerman, Actor, Woodworker
“Everything you have learned here has prepared you for the great challenges and opportunities to come. But tomorrow, when the excitement of graduation is gone and you are striking out on your own, will you be ready to write your own success story? Only you can answer that.”
-Kirk Gibson, Baseball Player, Manager, Commentator
“Genius plans and eureka moments are overrated. Follow your hunches. Try things and be open to where your gut tells you to go next. You don’t have to set out to change the world, just find a way to make something worthwhile, easier for other people, and you just might change the world along the way.”
-Ev Williams, Twitter Co-founder
Finally, some decent advice on life (and negotiating) from comedian Maria Bamford.