When it comes to commencement speeches, too many colleges take the boring road and choose some random schlub that a group of 20-somethings has barely heard of, because the old farts calling the shots would love to hear what Fogey Johnson has to say about the old days. Hell, most colleges would be content to throw a dog on stage and feed it some peanut butter while playing Elmo’s speech from Vision Quest. But some universities nail the commencement speech thing every year, and it’s only fair that we get to sit in on them and get some inspiration, too.
I’ll admit, though, last year’s speeches were hard to top. Tom Hanks, Amy Poehler, Denzel Washington, Bill Clinton, Stephen Colbert and many others came out and slapped our nation’s next wave of barely-employed dreamers in the face with ambition. But this year’s gaggle of grads weren’t shorted by any means, either.
On the following pages, I’ve put together a comprehensive collection of some of this year’s greatest, most inspiring commencement speeches from celebrities, politicians, sports figures and corporate geniuses – including Barack Obama, James Franco, Aaron Sorkin, Jane Lynch, Neil Gaiman and Lou Holtz – so you can click play, close your eyes and pretend that you weren’t painfully hungover at your own graduation.