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Three (More!) of Our Favorite LA Commencement Speeches


Hey there graduates! As the school year comes to an end, we wanted to give a big shoutout to all of you amazing achievers out there! To congratulate you all on making it through and reaching this milestone in your lives, here are some words of wisdom from some special speakers who have graced commencement stages in both the LA area, and nearby, that highlight topics we consider essential to postgraduate challenges. We hope you enjoy these remarks from the comic Conan O’Brien, the actor and comedian Will Ferrell, and the former First Lady and lawyer Michelle Obama. So, keep being outstanding; remember to face hardship, grow from failure, and extend kindness to those around you. Here's to all the exciting things that await you in the future!

Link to transcript

In 2019 at UCLA, the former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama urged graduates not to shy away from circumstances with civil congestion, but to work through it, in order to obtain social change. Urging her listeners to use their voices to bring about change in the world, she highlighted the importance of resilience. Emphasizing the work of both Women's Suffragist Lucy Stone and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Obama encouraged students to “actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find.” The importance of working places where change seems impossible, she explained, often produce surprising, and hopeful, outcomes. “Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens—the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds.” We urge you to seek discomfort when it arises, and encourage you to keep pushing forward, particularly in the face of obstacles.

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Los Angeles local Conan O'Brien, addressed Dartmouth College in 2011. Amidst many deep belly-laugh-inspiring jokes, he offered some heartfelt and encouraging advice to the graduates. O’Brien explained that many comedians in the past dreamt to be just like their predecessors, but that many of them failed to do so; this, he explained, is what made them successful. “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal,” he explained, “that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.” Handled correctly, what you choose to do with this failure can ultimately lead to prosperity. Failure is inevitable, and “through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

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At USC, in 2017, Actor and Comedian Will Ferrel delivered the commencement speech at the University of Southern California (USC) in 2017. The speech was filled with humor and wit, as one would expect from the famous comedian. Amidst the humor, Ferrell spelled out his own definition of success to the graduates. emphasizing the importance of taking risks and being true to oneself. “No matter how cliché it may sound,” he explained, “you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” He discussed the essential quality of community, and that through connection, one will find meaning in what they do.

And…. here is last year’s edition of this post, featuring three other speeches!

AuthorTeam LA2050