Springtime is graduation season for academia, and 2012 has already been a banner year for commencement speeches. Whether the speakers took lighthearted approaches as James Franco did at UT Arlington or confronted tragedy as U.S. President Barack Obama did in his speech to Joplin High School seniors, ceremonies have included both humor and controversy.
It's rare that Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and SpongeBob SquarePants all have something in common, but this year, they do. We collected the best quotes and video from all of their speeches. You can find them below.
1. AARON SORKIN
"Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has."
2. BARACK OBAMA
Joplin High School
“We can define our lives not by what happens to us, but by how we respond. We can choose to carry on. We can choose to make a difference in the world. And in doing so, we can make true what’s written in Scripture -– that ‘tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.’
Of all that’s come from this tragedy, let this be the central lesson that guides us, let it be the lesson that sustains you through whatever challenges lie ahead.”
3. MITT ROMNEY
“By the way, I’m told that some of you may have taken a little longer than four years to complete your studies. One graduate has said that he completed his degree in only two terms: Clinton’s and Bush’s.”
4. NEIL GAIMAN
University of the Arts (Philadelphia)
“First of all, when you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you’re doing. This is great. People who know what they’re doing know the rules, and they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.”
5. OPRAH WINFREY
"You must have some vision for your life. Even if you don't know the plan, you have to have a direction in which you choose to go," Winfrey said. "What I learned is that that's a great metaphor for life. You want to be in the driver's seat of your own life because if you are not, life will drive you."
6. JAMES FRANCO
“I have a BA, a few Masters degrees, and I'm pursuing a PhD. I actually think I’m developing a bit of a problem. It's gotten to the point where if I don't graduate from something within 6 months, I start getting the shakes, I break out in hives. I wake up in cold sweats. And cotton mouth is starting to become a problem. I’m privileged to be here with you to get a taste of that sweet graduation feeling. If I'm being completely honest, I'm already getting a contact high just being here.”
7. KATIE COURIC
University of Virginia
"Some said I lacked 'gravitas,' which I've since decided is Latin for 'testicles.'"
8. TONY BLAIR
"There was no record of my career as a rock musician. … If there had been, I wouldn't be standing here.”
9. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS
“Now, as you set about your careers, you may find yourself tempted to defer to those who are older or have more experience. And I want to make clear, on behalf of the parents in the audience, even though we may not know who Snooki is or why everyone’s so angry about her, we do have some wisdom to share. You still need to call your moms.”
10. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS
University of Vermont
“I keep thinking back to that September Day,
When we got lost ‘cause Trinity is so far away.”