The Top 5 Commencement Speeches

The Top 5 Commencement Speeches

Note: with a series of additions over the years, this post is now 11 Commencement speeches that I love.

Commencement speeches… the final words of wisdom that almost-graduates receive before heading out into the big world.  These are important speeches.  

I’ve seen a lot of them… I have had the privilege of attending 2 or 3 graduations a year at IESE Business School over the last 16 years… that’s a total of over 35 commencement speeches that I have personally attended 😉

Top 5 Commencement Speeches

Conor’s Top 11 Commencement Speeches

Here are my 11 favourite commencement speeches.  They are from inspiring people, sharing personal experiences in a humble manner.  This 11 pack of wisdom runs to less than 120 minutes of your life…  Watch soon, watch often…

My top 11 commencement speeches (not in any order of preference):

The videos are all provided below on the blog, also available on youtube as a playlist called Commencement Speeches.

Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art

University of the Arts, 2012

Neil Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films.  A must watch for any artist and everyone who hopes to be creative and successful.

Steve Jobs

Connect the Dots

Stanford, 2005

Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks, including death itself.

JK Rowling

The benefits of failure and imagination

Harvard University, 2008

J. K. Rowling is a British novelist, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series.

David Brooks

Make Commitments in Life

Dartmouth 2015

“We are not a society that nurtures commitment-making,” “New York Times” columnist David Brooks told the Class of 2015. “But your fulfillment in life will not come from how well you explore your freedom and keep your options open. … Your fulfillment in life will come by how well you end your freedom.”

David Foster Wallace

Learn to be Humble

Kenyon University, 2005

This is just the audio and not a video of his commencement speech, but the essential message on the need to learn humility and the ability to engage with diverse people and points of view is so well expressed that I include it.

Prof Rick Rigsby

Seek Wisdom, not Just Knowledge

Rick Rigsby commands the audience with his presence. His speech is reminiscent of Martin Luther King… with his tone of voice raising and lowering and his pacing of his words deliberately used to emphasise his message.

My Name is Bono and I am a Rock Star…

“That’s not a cause, that’s an emergency…”

Oprah Winfrey at Harvard

Bill Gates at Harvard

Bill Clinton at Yale

Barrack Obama at Arizona State