The Top 10 Inspirational Celebrity Commencement Speeches

It’s the end of another school year and the start of summer for most students, but for some, they are throwing their caps up celebrating the fact that they’re done school forever and are preparing to start a new chapter in their lives.

Although it’s a very exciting time for most graduates, it can also leave many feeling nervous and uneasy as they emerge into workforce (or as many say “the real world”).

As these graduates sit in their cap and gown ready to walk across the stage to receive their diploma, we look to the podium to see which celebrity guest will use their words of wisdom to inspire the graduating class.

Whether you’re graduating or not, most can benefit from these past awe-inspiring commencement speeches.

Oprah Winfrey, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, 2018

It comes as no surprise that Oprah has been chosen countless times to deliver commencement speeches as she is loved around the world and has been an inspiration to many across different platforms through her books and, of course, television. Not only does Oprah offer practical advice to graduates (i.e. make your bed, eat a good breakfast, pay your bills on time, invest in a quality mattress — I hear ya Oprah — and don’t “cheap out on your shoes”) — she also shares several personal anecdotes to help students deal with real-world problems.


This year, Oprah attended and shared her words of wisdom to the graduating class at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Oprah holds this school close to her heart as one of her sponsored girls from South Africa was part of the graduating class and was receiving her masters.

Highlights from Oprah’s speech:

  • “Vote, Vote, Vote.”
  • Listen and learn from peoples’ stories.
  • Fight for what you believe is right.
  • That “the truth is our saving grace.”
  • “Show up. Do the work.”
  • Money doesn’t constitute accomplishment.
  • “Stop comparing yourself to other people.”

Michelle Obama, Spelman College, 2011

First lady, Michelle Obama addressed the graduating class of 2011 at Spelman College, “a historically black college for women in Atlanta” with a commencement speech that inspired the women to “change the world for the better,” and to stand out and break the glass ceiling. To connect with the students, Obama shared her own work experiences of leaving a high-paying corporate job to work at a non-profit organization that helps and encourages young people to serve their communities. Obama also mentioned the importance of continuing education and she addressed that she is one of the first generations in her family to graduate from college.

Amy Poehler, Harvard University, 2011

Imagine having Amy Poehler (best known for her comedic acts on SNL and Parks & Recreation) as your commencement speaker at your college, I am sure no one would be caught snoozing in the crowd. Well, the graduates at Harvard University in 2011 were in for a treat when Poehler took to the podium to not only make the students laugh, but to also offer her advise on living your best life. Poehler told the crowd that she attended Boston College and joking acknowledge her school was the “Harvard of Boston.” After getting some laughs from the students and attendees, she reminded the students to: “Listen. Say ‘yes.’ Live in the moment. Make sure you play with people who have your back. Make big choices early and often.”

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