Oh graduation, that day when high school and college seniors celebrate all the hard work (and partying) they’ve accomplished in the past four years with traditions such as the oversized gowns, the hat throwing, the blaring of the “Pomp and Circumstance March” and of course the commencement speaker that just … puts … you … to … zzzzzzz.
But wait! Did you know that there have been students lucky enough to stay awake during their ceremony? It turns out that those fortunate few didn’t have politicians or academics that no one has ever heard of, instead they had a celebrity give the commencement speech of their life. Recently, both Jim Carrey and Sandra Bullock did just that when they took the stage at two separate graduation ceremonies.
This past Weekend, Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa — where he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts Honoris Caus — and told the graduating class: “‘My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an account and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.”
and Monday, May 19, Bullock surprised the students at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans, telling them: “Go find your joy, It’s what you’re going to remember in the end…. You’re not going to remember how you worried; you’re not going to remember the what-ifs…”
So in honor of the class of 2014, here are five other celebrities that also nailed it:
5. Jon Stewart – The College of William & Mary, 2004
Purpose of the speech: The future is unpredictable.
“I know that the decisions that I made after college worked out. But at the time I didn’t know that they would. See college is not necessarily predictive of your future success. And it’s the kind of thing where the path that I chose obviously wouldn’t work for you. For one, you’re not very funny. So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this. You won’t. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience.”
4. J.K. Rowling – Harvard, 2008
Purpose of the speech: The importance of failure and imagination
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me … I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized … and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
3. Stephen Colbert – Northwestern University, 2011
The purpose of the speech: dreams can change, and the importance of helping others.
“You have been told to follow your dreams. But, what if it’s a stupid dream? For instance Stephen Colbert of 25 years ago … dreamed of living alone … in a barren loft apartment … doing Shakespeare in the street for the homeless. Today, I am a … suburban dad who lives in a house … and makes Anthony Wiener jokes for a living and I love it, because thankfully dreams can change.”
“Try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find those who love and serve you in return.”
2. Bono – University of Pennsylvania, 2004
Purpose of the speech: Try to change the world (or at least Africa).
“The fact is that this generation … we’re the first generation that can look at poverty and disease, look across the ocean to Africa and say with a straight face, ‘we can be the first to end this sort of stupid extreme poverty’ … For the first time in history we have the know how, we have the cash, we have the lifesaving drugs, but do we have the will? … I really, really do believe it.”
1. Steve Jobs – Stanford University, 2005
The purpose of the speech: don’t be afraid to take chances.
“When I was seventeen, I read a quote that went something like ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ … Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life … is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”