The inspiring grad speeches that every undergrad needs to hear rn

May 24, 2017
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It’s that time of year again – grad season. But the Australian uni grad season is only exciting if you’re finally receiving that piece of paper you’ve shed many tears over. Even then, it’s not so exciting when you have to sit through a long and very dull ceremony. Meanwhile in the US, grad season means a bunch of A-list celebs impart wisdom on graduates and the entire world (since you know it’s going to be uploaded to YouTube immediately after). This year’s speakers of course brought their A-game, and here’s some of the inspiring words every undergrad could benefit from hearing right now.

Helen Mirren, Tulane University

Tulane University isn’t a stranger to badass commencement speakers, including SNL’s Maya Rudolph and talk show legend Ellen DeGeneres. It’s definitely worth watching if you want to see the grande dame incorporate dirty humour into her speech, but I’ll summarise the inspo she shares, which she describes as “Helen’s top five rules for a happy life”.

Her advice? Don’t be in a rush to get married. That’s pretty solid, there’s plenty of time for that. Rule #2 is a little longer, with a few addendums to the original point. "Treat people just like people,” she said, saying no matter what position of power that person is in, treat them with equal respect and generosity that you would expect from them. An important addition to that rule is "No matter what sex you are, be a feminist." Preach!

Her remaining rules are equally as important to take on board, which is to #3 ignore anyone who judges the way you look, #4 don’t be afraid of fear and #5 don’t overcomplicate things.

Pharrell Williams, New York University

Describing himself as “forever a student”, the singer imparted some wise words on why your education doesn’t stop once you graduate.

“After you leave here today, I am asking you to let your actions out there in the world... fuel the demand for better education. Engage and inspire — whether on an individual level or loudly within your communities. Talk about your accomplishments. Be humble, but not too humble. Don't be invisible.”

Seems like Pha-real doesn’t completely agree with Kendrick Lamar’s latest anthem.

Oprah Winfrey, Skidmore College

Boss lady Oprah got to bless the upstate New York liberal arts college with her presence, as well as blessing them with some inspiring words for being your best self after graduation.

"It's a big, bad world out there," she warned, but thankfully for us she shared her secrets on how to get ahead, which involved listening to and following your “inner truth”.

"Being able to make the right choice based upon what is the truth of you is the dream and prayer I hold for you today," she said.

“Understanding there is an alignment between who you are and what you do, is what authentic empowerment is… There is nothing more powerful than you using your personality to serve the calling of yourself."

If this is what Oprah did to get to where she is today, you might want to take some notes.

Will Ferrell, University of Southern California

If you were in the US, you’d be hoping you’d be getting a comedian like Will Ferrell to put his funny spin on life advice. No surprises that he delivered on both fronts, closing his speech by belting out Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, but not before imparting some lessons he’s learned from his own successes and failures.

Will Ferrell shares the very relatable tale of doing a degree that you know isn’t right for you; although he completed a Sports Information degree, he knew deep down he wanted to pursue comedy.

“Yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid… But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of what if. What if I never tried at all?

“For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s OK. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”

Image: YouTube