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The Advice Your Graduate Actually Needs

10 inspiring quotes from awesome commencement speeches

Published on: May 18, 2018

Graduates

It’s that time of year again: when our not-so-little birds graduate and head out into the real world to pursue their passions and, hopefully, a steady revenue stream. If you’re looking for life-affirming advice to give your grad, the following quotes should help inspire this year’s fledgling adults to take on their biggest dreams with passion and humility.

1. Bet on yourself

"I wish you purpose and the passion that goes along with that purpose. I hope that everyone of you contributes to the conversation of our culture and our time and to some genuine communication … I hope you shake things up, and when the time comes to bet on yourself, I hope you double down." — Oprah Winfrey, 2018

2. Trust your inner voice

"You will face a moment in your career where you have absolutely no idea what to do … And I hope that in that moment 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."  —Ronan Farrow, 2018

3. Define “doing better”

"Many of my generation fear that doing better is not in the cards for you. We feel chagrined that you won’t inherit the SUV or the McMansion or the corner office, that you won’t do better than we did. But you are going to define what doing better means, and do that better than we did." —Anna Quindlen, 2017

4. Be generous with kindness

"I’ve begun to learn in my life that perhaps the biggest thing you can do in a given day is really just a small act of kindness, of decency, of love, an exhibition of moral imagination, or creative compassion … we have so much power to make a difference." —Cory Booker, 2017

5. Find your purpose

"When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history." —Chadwick Boseman, 2018

6. Disappointments are part of the journey

"The ‘uh-oh’ moments are worth cherishing just as much as ‘ah-ha’ moments: Mistakes, failures, embarrassments and disappointments are a necessary component of growing wise." —Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 2016

7. Do these assorted things

"Always write thank-you notes.
Be a big tipper.
Always split Aces and Eights.
Floss.
Call your folks.
Invest in a good mattress.
Shine your shoes.
Don’t tweet, post Instagram, or email anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the New York Times.
Be nice to seniors.
Be nice to children.
Remember birthdays.
Never miss an opportunity to charge an electronic device.
Use two-step verification."
Jake Tapper, 2017

8. Try what others thought couldn’t be done

"At this moment in your life you know fewer limits, fewer taboos and fewer fears than you will ever in the future. So do not squander your ignorance. Go out and do what your teachers and parents thought could not be done — and what they never thought of doing." —Peter Thiel, 2016

9. Don’t be afraid to fail

"Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel." —Abby Wambach, 2018

10. A few bumps in the road will make you a better person

"I wish you bad luck, from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved, and the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then that your opponent will gloat over your failure, as a way to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored, so you understand the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion." — Justice John Roberts, 2016 (at the Cardigan Mountain School ninth-grade graduation)

While you’re motivating your 2018 graduates to take on the world, remember that, though our kids will be dressed nearly identically on graduation day in shiny caps and gowns, each one has unique goals. And, in the words of Condoleeza Rice, “When you find your passion, it’s yours. Not what someone else thinks it should be.”
 

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