Advice to Graduates from 2015 Commencement Speeches

By Kelly Brokaw
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

It’s that time of year again – graduation season is in full swing.

Across the country, schools book big name celebrities, businessmen, businesswomen, philanthropists and politicians for commencement addresses. While some of this year’s speeches were emotional or comical, many were bursting with inspiring life and career lessons from leaders across industries.

Here’s a glimpse at a few insightful speeches that provide great advice for new grads:

Stephen Colbert – Wake Forest University

This year’s graduates at Wake Forest University in North Carolina had Stephen Colbert as their speaker. He offered plenty of wisdom about setting your own standards and making sure not to become complacent with yourself. Of course, he also had plenty of topical jokes, such as poking fun at “The Dress,” which was a trending topic back in February.


While his speech was certainly funny, Stephen gave this great piece of advice:

Of course, any standards worth having will be a challenge to meet. And most of the time, you will fall short. But what is nice about having your own set of standards is that from now on, you fill out your own report card. So do yourself a favor: Be an easy grader. Score yourself on a curve. Give yourself extra credit. You have the power. You are your own professor now.”

Meredith Vieira – Boston University

Remember the famous “left shark” from this year’s Super Bowl halftime show? In case you need to refresh your memory, click here.

Well, Boston University grads got quite the surprise when NBC correspondent and talk show host Meredith Vieira called left shark up on stage for a repeat performance, as she told the graduates:

“The shark on the right knew every dance move and performed perfectly. But it was the left shark, the one who went rogue and danced to his own crazy beat, who stole the show. So don’t ever be a conformist for convenience sake. Or as Mark Twain put it, ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.’ Be the left shark.”

Although this may seem like strange advice to new grads, since dressing up as a shark and dancing around the workplace might be frowned upon, Vieira makes a good point about stepping out of your comfort zone. She also encouraged the grads to keep an open mind and to accept new possibilities, while mentioning she never planned to be a journalist until a college course on radio reporting led to an internship with a Boston radio affiliate.


Katie Couric – University of Wisconsin

In her commencement speech filled with uplifting words of advice for millennials, journalist Katie Couric talked about the importance of taking risks and failing gracefully.

“Experiencing setbacks, disappointments and, yes, failure helps you develop another essential skill. And that’s resilience.”


While Couric has embraced social media in her professional life, she also gives some valuable advice cautioning graduates to continue to invest in real-life connections. She sums it up perfectly — put down your phone and talk to real people:

“Social media can be a great thing: giving voice to the voiceless, uniting people across the globe in a common cause. But proceed with caution. Constant connectivity can leave you feeling isolated and disconnected. Do not be seduced by the false intimacy of social media. Comfort and support can be found in online communities, but they cannot replace the humanity of real ones.”

For more great commencement speeches from 2015, click here.

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