The Top 5 Commencement Speeches

Commencement speeches… the final words of wisdom that almost-graduates receive before heading out into the big world.  These are important speeches.  I have had the privilege of attending 2 or 3 graduations a year at IESE Business School over the last 13 years.

Top 5 Commencement Speeches

Here are my 5 favourite commencement speeches.  They are from inspiring people, sharing personal experiences in a humble manner.  This 5 pack of wisdom runs to less than 60 minutes of your life…  Watch soon, watch often…

My top 5 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.


More Speeches?

What are you favourite commencement speeches?  I’d love to have your top speeches to add to the list here, please share in the comments below.


Here are a few more speeches that are great, but didn’t quite make my top 5:

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


  1. […] P.S. If you liked this post you might also like The greatest coaching question of all time and The top 5 Commencement Speeches. […]

  2. I loved Conan O’Brien’s first Commencement Speech at Harvard… I think he spoke twice there, but I remember the first one as incredibly hilarious (as usual).

    1. cool, I’ll look for that one and add it to the list!

  3. John’s away and had to write a comment in line with his TEDx ! Hope he sees this! 😉

  4. Wonderful and inspiring and very timely…my daughter just had her graduation ceremony last week. You don’t need to be graduating from a school to appreciate these speeches. People, young and old, “graduate” or cross threshold all the time, from one life event to the next. Thanks for posting this!

    1. I liked John’s TEDx – about celebrating graduation moments more often in life 😉

  5. Susanne Farwer · · Reply

    Sheryl Sandberg’s Speech at UC Berkeley is very thought provoking and moving….A must watch speech from an amazing woman who shares what she has learned ‘in death’ and how this tragic experience has helped her to develop resilience and maintain faith in life.

    1. Thank you – I will watch now! (and add to this list)

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Going Mad Wanna Come?

Perspectives on a Life in Progress of Being Lived

Centrifugal Performer

By Milica Ilic

Manner of Speaking

"All the great speakers were bad speakers at first." — Ralph W. Emerson


breathing made easy

Anna S. E. Lundberg

Coach, trainer, mentor

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