Five Best Commencement Speeches of 2011

This collection of speeches hosts a wide range of speakers who reach into their own life experiences and lessons to deliver commencement addresses that are eloquent, humorous, and moving. Each speech was chosen for their inspirational nature, because they not only have the power to motivate upcoming and recent graduates, but also those of us who need a reminder of what it feels like to be wide-eyed twenty-something-year-old.

Tom Hanks – Yale

Tom Hanks gives a phenomenal speech at Yale about fear. Through humor that only Tom Hanks can deliver, he discusses why we cannot succumb to the seductive nature of fear.

Amy Poehler – Harvard

In possibly one of the funniest commencement speeches of all time, comedian Amy Poehler of SNL, delivers an address to the Harvard graduating class of 2011. Her speech stresses the importance of collaboration, and she lectures on humility. She also notes some great lessons she learned from studying improvisation.

Chris Sacca – University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management

Twitter Investor Chris Sacca reminds us that success is not about money, but it is about happiness. He lets students know that after they graduate they have the opportunity to the hit the reset button on their lives and take any route they choose.

Denzel Washington – University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Actor Denzel Washington’s speech to graduating UPenn students discusses the necessity of failure. He explains why it is important to take risks and not worry about fall backs, because you should always “fall forward.”

Sheryl Sandberg – Barnard

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, gives a commencement speech to Barnard women’s college in which she discusses both the achievements of women and the obstacles they face. She also reminds graduates that “you are awesome.”

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