The best quotes from 2015 celebrity commencement speeches |


The best quotes from 2015 celebrity commencement speeches

Stars offer words of wisdom—and sing Beyonce—to college graduates


Graduating college is an exciting achievement, but the four-hour ceremonies can be a bit of a buzzkill—that is, unless a famous person is on hand to give the commencement speech. A handful of celebrities have spoken to the class of 2015, offering insights for the future as well as some laughs. (Some even broke out into song.) We’ve rounded up the most inspirational (and witty) things they had to say below.

Denzel Washington, Dillard University, May 9
“Don’t be afraid to dream big, but remember dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment. So have dreams but have goals. To achieve these goals, you must apply discipline and consistency everyday. You have to work at it…I try to give myself a goal every day, sometimes it’s just not to curse somebody out.”  

Tom Brokaw, High Point University, May 9
“I believe that at the beginning of this century, we launched a great crusade that will end with the 21st century historians looking back and saying, of all the accomplishments and changes, nothing was as important as gender equality…The 21st century will be remembered as the century of women.”

Matthew McConaughey, University of Houston, May 15
“Let’s admit it, we all got two wolves in us, a good one and a bad one, you know what I’m talking about—and they BOTH wanna eat…We just gotta feed that good wolf a little more than the other one.”

Ed Helms, University of Virginia, May 15
“Each and every one of you has a vibrant, courageous soul, and a depth of power, creativity and wisdom you are only just beginning to tap into. That is your light. It is the light within you, and you have to let it shine because when you do, I promise, it will illuminate you, your family, your friends, your community, your country, and the entire world. Don’t let that light die. Every day wake up and say to yourself, ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.’”

Ken Burns, Washington University (STL), May 15
“You have fresh prospects and real dreams and I wish each and every one of you the very best. But I am drafting you now into a new Union Army that must be committed to preserving the values, the sense of humor, the sense of cohesion that have long been a part of our American nature, too. You have no choice, you’ve been called up, and it is your difficult, but great and challenging responsibility to help change things and set us right again.”

Maya Rudolph, Tulane University, May 16
“If I could give my 21 year old self any advice it would be ‘take as many bikini photos as you can now, because your body is smokin’ hot. And it will not be this bangin’ after childbirth.’”

Honorable mention: “Look Under Your Seats! Because you are all leaving here today with a COLLEGE DIPLOMA!!! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA! YOU GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA!”

(Of course, we couldn’t forget her closing Beyonce-esque National Anthem.)

Katie Couric, University of Wisconsin-Madison, May 16
“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…Finding the right work takes work and time. But don’t wait forever to find your bliss or you may find yourself 30 and living in your parents’ basement eating microwave popcorn and binge-watching re-runs of The O.C.”

Tim Cook, George Washington University, May 17
“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 with 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.”

Honorable mention: “Those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode. If you don’t have an iPhone, please pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world‑class recycling program.”

Meredith Vieira, Boston University, May 17
“Be the left shark. Remember last super bowl, when the Patriots won? You may be thinking of Tom Brady’s deflated balls right now, but i’m thinking of Katy Perry’s half time performance. She was on stage dancing with two sharks. The shark on the right knew every dance move and performed perfectly. But it was the left shark, the one who went rogue and danced to his own crazy beat, who stole the show. So don’t ever be a conformist for convenience’s sake. Or as Mark Twain put it, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Be the left shark.”

Mark Ruffalo, Dickinson College, May 17
“I’m asking each of you, at some point, to act up—be misbehaved. Buck the system. Fight for what you believe in. This is the time to do it. You’re the ones to do it. Your world, like no other generation, you actually get to create the world that you can imagine. And never in the history of mankind has it been so available to so many people to do that thing.”

Bill Nye, Rutgers University, May 17
“Included with all this stuff about making new great discoveries and changing the world, I’d like to give you some advice, just plain old advice like: If you smell fresh paint, don’t walk under the ladder. Wear good shoes in a thumbtack factory. And, don’t try to smoke in the rain. In fact, don’t smoke at all, ever. Here’s an unusual one: If you’re going to get a bucket of water dumped over your head for any reason, untuck your shirt. You might not think it would make much difference. A cotton shirt like this one is hydrophilic. Water is going to stick to it. True enough, but a shirttail, even a water-loving one, directs a great deal of the torrent around your waistband. So, you get a lot less cold water in your trousers and skirt.”

Honorable mention: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t. This is troubling for many of us know-it-alls. Auto mechanics today write code and debug software. Cooks understand the use of copper to control egg proteins. Bricklayers have intimate knowledge of the strength of materials. Respect their knowledge. Learn from them. It will bring out the best in both of you.”

Alan Alda, Carnegie Mellon Univeristy, May 17
“Like the admiral last year who gave one of these speeches, his advice was so concrete, so simple. He said, “If you want to change the world, make your bed every day.” Isn’t that wonderful? I love that. I mean, it’s utter simplicity. I mean, if you can start off a day with a little discipline like that, there’s no telling what you can accomplish when the hard stuff comes your way.” 

Stephen Colbert, Wake Forest University, May 18
“You did it and you look amazing. Although it’s a little embarrassing you all showed up in the same outfit. Really, even all of the accessories are the same. Everyone has a black and gold tassel—or is it blue and white? Grandparents, just know this was the issue that divided a generation. You had the Vietnam War, your grandchildren had an ambiguously colored Tumblr post.”

Honorable mention: “It’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become…and to make some crucial decisions in becoming who we’re going to be. For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night. And you at some point will have to sleep. I am told the Adderall wears off eventually.”