Top 10 Commencement Speeches

I’m building this page out – feel free to reach out and recommend some speeches. The following are currently unranked – I’m still in gathering mode.

David Foster WallaceThis is Water (Kenyon College, 2005) (Youtube)

  • “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

Toni MorrisonWellesley Commencement Address (2004) (Youtube)

  • “I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, target of your labors here, your choices of companions, of the profession that you will enter. You deserve it and I want you to gain it, everybody should. But if that’s all you have on your mind, then you do have my sympathy, and if these are indeed the best years of your life, you do have my condolences because there is nothing, believe me, more satisfying, more gratifying than true adulthood. The adulthood that is the span of life before you. The process of becoming one is not inevitable. Its achievement is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard-won glory, which commercial forces and cultural vapidity should not be permitted to deprive you of.”

Barbara KingsolverHow to be Hopeful (Duke University, 2008) (Youtube)

  • “The arc of history is longer than human vision. It bends. We abolished slavery, we granted universal suffrage. We have done hard things before. And every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, ‘We already did. We have made the world new.’ The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on.”

Charles MungerThe Prescription for a Life of Misery (Harvard University, 1986)

  • “do not faithfully do what you have promised yourself or others, learn everything you possibly can from your own personal experience, minimizing what you can learn from the good and bad experience of others, living and dead…”


If you enjoyed this list, here are some others:

Thanks. – shawn