10 memorable commencement speech quotes from 2013

What do the President of the United States, an astrophysicist, several comedians and the director of The Avengers have in common?  They were all part of a star-studded commencement season, imparting wisdom and inspiration upon 2013's graduating classes through tales of humor, triumph and tragedy.

You can view some of the best quotes and videos from this year's speeches below.

Wesleyan University

Quote: “You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key—not only to consciousness, but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It’s not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself.”


Harvard University

Quote: "If you're constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages, not to mention The Myth of Icarus, predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us into another direction."


School: Morehouse College (Also gave speeches at Ohio State and U.S. Naval Academy)

Quote: “Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.”


Bowie State University

Quote: "No matter what career you pursue, every single one of you has a role to play as educators for our young people. So if you have friends or cousins or siblings who are not taking their education seriously, shake them up. Go talk some sense into them. Get them back on track.

If the school in your neighborhood isn’t any good, don't just accept it. Get in there, fix it. Talk to the parents. Talk to the teachers. Get business and community leaders involved as well, because we all have a stake in building schools worthy of our children’s promise."


Southern Virginia University

Quote: “To you parents--you are about to enjoy the new American dream: it is no longer owning your own home, it is getting your kids out of the home you own.”


Marquette University (Also gave a speech at the University of Baltimore)

Quote: "For all of you graduating, understand that you are a dream come true for these people, these people, and now you’re going to have to satisfy them. Oh yeah, some of you will come back home, because you should, because you’re not ready to work for somebody. So thank God your parents will take you out of businesses that don’t need people who don’t know what they’re doing. I want to thank all the parents who have their own business and will hire their child. Those of you who made a mistake, understand that life is not over—whatever your discipline is, whatever you’ve chosen to become, even if it is just to satisfy your benefactors. It is not over. You may continue on into something you feel comfortable doing, other than hanging around the house."


University of Virginia

Quote: "I want to thank president Teresa Sullivan. You are way better than that last president, Teresa Sullivan, she was terrible.  I am so glad they cut her loose. Good riddance, I say! No, you are clearly the woman for this job."


Tulane University

Quote: “You might have lost sleep over your exams, but now you have achieved the result. I am impressed to note that while you studied many of you have also made efforts to help others. Education gives us a good preparation, but it is by actually putting it to use in the service of others that we make our lives meaningful.”


Rice University

Quote: [Speaking on how innovation inspires societal change] "You hardly ever hear of Apollo 8... It orbited the moon, came around the back side. They held up a camera and there was Earth rising over the lunar surface. That, to do this day, is the most recognized photograph of anything at any time... There was Earth, not with color-coded countries. There was Earth with oceans, land, clouds... You go to the moon and you look back and it's a whole new perspective, a cosmic perspective. We went to the moon to explore it, but in fact we discovered Earth for the first time."


School: Bard College

Kelly Quote: "Our friend and my hero, Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13, remembers being amazed in 1961 when he heard President Kennedy say that we would get to the Moon. Jim says he thought that was impossible. This is in 1961. Jim Lovell thought it would be impossible. Then, as some of you know, he went to the moon twice.

Jim says: 'There are three types of people. There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you’ve got to be a person who makes things happen.'”


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Filed Under: Higher Ed
Top image credit: YouTube