Graduation Day is a milestone for both students and parents. It’s when their years of hard work come to full fruition, marking a formal finale to sleepless nights of accomplishing projects and juggling school requirements.
More important, a commencement exercise serves as the start of bigger challenges.
Life after graduation, however, shouldn’t be an endless cycle of climbing the career ladder, making money, and paying the bills. Just take it from some of the most successful figures around the world.
Here are graduation speeches that will surely inspire everyone—fresh grad or not–to think big, dream big, and get big results.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook , to Harvard University Graduates
“Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.”
“The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.”
“We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful.”
“Change starts local. Even global changes start small—with people like us. In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this—your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to Massachusetts Institute of Technology Graduates
“I had never met a leader with such passion or encountered a company with such a clear and compelling purpose: to serve humanity. How can I serve humanity? When you work towards something greater than yourself, you find meaning, you find purpose.”
“I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion, without concern for consequences. That is what we need you to help us guard against.”
“As Steve once said, technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with the liberal arts married with the humanities that make our hearts sing. When you keep people at the center of what you do, it can have an enormous impact.”
“Measure your impact in humanity not in the likes, but the lives you touch. Not in popularity, but in the people you serve. I found that my life got bigger when I stopped carrying about what other people thought about me.”
“When you are convinced that your cause is right, have the courage to take a stand. If you see a problem or an injustice, recognize that no one will fix it but you.”
Helen Mirren, actress, to Tulane University Graduates
“The trick is to listen to your instinct, grab the opportunity when it presents itself, and then give it your all. You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day, but it’s really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever, they both pass and a new day arrives. Just try to make that new day count.”
“Just treat people like people. Remember that every single person, whether they have dominion over your life or not, deserves equal respect and generosity.”
“Don’t be afraid of fear. Don’t let fear rule you. Now, mind you, sometimes it’s wise to be afraid. But for the moments when you are challenged by other fears—like, “Am I good enough?” “Am I smart enough?” “Will I fail?”—throw caution to the winds, look fear straight-away in its ugly face, and barge forward.”
“If I’m you—I have a responsibility to you. If you’re me—you have a responsibility to me.”
Pharrell Williams, singer-songwriter, to New York University Graduates
“If there is enough demand, somebody will supply it.”
“Fuel the demand for better education. Engage and inspire—whether on an individual level or loudly within your communities. Talk about your accomplishments. Be humble, but not too humble. Don’t be invisible.”
Octavia Spencer, actress, to Kent State University Graduates
“It’s your turn to choose and define what success means to you. Now, others will try to define it for you, but yours is the only voice that matters.”
“A strong work ethic is vital and it will get you farther than talent and luck ever could.”
“Stay focused so that your change and growth is intentional. Don’t let who you’re becoming be shaped by disappointments and also don’t let yourself be shaped by achievements either.”