Sidebar: A sampler of college commencement speeches


“Don’t cave to the status quo. Don’t trade happiness for deferred gratification. Don’t give up adventure for safety and security. The safe is the enemy of the satisfying. Deferred gratification has a way of being deferred forever. And the status quo, ‘business-as-usual,’ ‘the-way-things-have-always-been-done’ has completely failed us.” — Writer and columnist Anna Quindlen, at Grinnell College, Iowa, 2011

“To reach out to one person, to make a difference in one life, that is really what we are here for. So, have your grand dreams. Have your great plans for what your professional life will be, but don’t forget that it is one person at a time where we really leave a legacy.” — Dr. Francis Collins, geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, at the University of Virginia, 2001

“The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on. If you run out of hope at the end of the day, rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in, burn what’s left of the ship, and go down with it — the ship of your natural life and your children’s only shot.” — Writer Barbara Kingsolver, Duke University, North Carolina, 2008


“Thank the people who put up with your antics and loved you through it all. Thank the people who paid your tuition and your expenses. There are those who helped and counseled you through difficult times or when you made hard decisions. There are those who were compassionate enough to tell you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear. Take some time today to thank them. Don’t put it off; some of us did.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, University of Georgia, 2008

Sources: “The World Is Waiting for You: Graduation Speeches to Live by from Activists, Writers, and Visionaries,” (The New Press) edited by Tara Grove and Isabel Ostrer, and “Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses,” (Sentinel) edited by Zev Chafets.