4 Motivational Commencement Speeches to Get You Through Finals Week

As college students, there is one day that everyone universally looks to; graduation day. The day where you finally get to leave those history papers, group projects, and exams behind to start your life in the real world. What you’re not told, is that everyone is going to take that culture shock differently, and maybe your last set of inspiration before you leave for good is that final speech given by your commencement speaker. We’ve put together a few of our favorite college graduation commencement speeches to get you excited and hyped up for that new chapter of your life.

Ben Nemtin, University of Utah 2018

Holy cow. This speech is one of the most impactful addresses to come out of college commencement. Ben Nemtin is known for a show that was on MTV a while back called The Buried Life. Almost 10 years ago, he and 3 of his hometown friends came together on a whim to make a movie about crossing things off of their far-fetched “buried” lists. They left their jobs and lives in Canada, got a contract with MTV, and hit the road. As they crossed off items one by one, they helped strangers cross items off of their own lists. They began with 100 items on that list and now only 9 remain. They’ve accomplished things such as playing basketball with President Obama, escaping from a desert island, and writing a New York Times best-selling novel. Regardless of your place in life, this is commencement speech you NEED to watch.

Admiral William H. McRaven, University of Texas – Austin 2014

If you are at all currently in the military, came from a military family, or have interested in entering the military, this is a great speech for you. Though it does speak to everyone. Through countless experiences and words of wisdom, he talks about the simple things that happen day to day that can change the lives of those around you. He gives the 10 lessons that he learned in his basic Navy Seals training that helped him change his outlook on life and to move forward to change the world. Simply put, make your bed and thank me later.

Will Ferrell, University of Southern California 2017

Those first two were a little on the serious side, how about something a little more lighthearted? Will Ferrell’s address tells us about his times at USC, how he has earned his honorary doctorate degree, and how he became the comedic actor that he’s known as today. He goes on about how, though he was scared while going through those times, he was more scared of the “what if” statement if he did not try. Will talks about how he spent much of the beginning of his career “throwing darts at a dartboard hoping that one of them would stick,” but how most of his success stems from his family and giving back to the community. “Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard, don’t listen to the critics, and you will figure it out.”

Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth College 2014

Shonda. Rhimes. Does more really need to be said? Before her thriving career as a TV writer for popular shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19, and Private Practice, and staple movies like The Princess Diaries, she was a dreamer at Dartmouth College back in 1991. She was hungover on her graduation day because she was grieving the loss of her college years and was nowhere near excited about entering adulthood. She speaks of doing and not dreaming, and what it takes to be a strong single mother in addition to a successful career woman. Shonda gives you advice in a very real way and explains that anyone who tells you that they are perfect in life is lying to you; that it’s okay to lie on the floor of your dorm room and cry because you do not know what comes next. If this speech doesn’t give you the same emotions as an episode of Grey’s does, then you need to watch it again.


Next time you are feeling down and need something to pick you up or make you feel like you are not alone with what you are going through in your life, remember that these speeches will have your back; much like GradGuard when it comes to protecting your investment in higher education.