By the end of the year, many college graduates are probably sick of hearing the “sage” life advice which most adults within earshot insist on giving them as they prepare to enter the real world (Think “Plastics.”). However, today’s graduates, who are facing difficult job prospects and unbelievably high student loan debts in addition to the usual uncertainties associated with a major life change, are more in need of advice than ever.
Luckily, many of them don’t have to look too far to find it — no further, in fact, than their university commencement ceremonies. The trend of celebrity commencement addresses isn’t a new one, but it seems that every year the speeches get better and better. We’ve complied a few of our favorites below for your listening and viewing pleasure. Check them out now.
Robert Redford – Colby College
Actor, filmmaker and activist Robert Redford gave the commencement address to graduates of Colby College in Waterville, ME. The two-time Academy Award-winning actor, director and Sundance Institute founder, addressed the class of 2015 (which included his grandson) on May 24. His speech discussed the value of education and hope, warning the graduates “you’re stepping into a world that’s pretty rough,” before declaring his confidence in them as vehicles of change. “The story, I think, can be retold, and I really believe that you’re the ones to do it.” Listen to the full speech below.
Marshall Curry – Queens University of Charlotte
Documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry, a two-time Academy Award nominee known for his award-winning documentaries “Street Fight,” “Racing Dreams” and most recently “Point and Shoot,” spoke to graduates of Queens University of Charlotte on May 14. His advice to them began with a self-deprecating reference to 2015 Golden State Warrior MVP Stephen Curry, whom he was mistaken for on Twitter before the announcement. “I’m sorry, I’m just going to do the best I can up here,” he said to laughs from the crowd. His best was pretty good, in our humble opinion. “Be bold with your life and chase your dreams,” he said, after telling candid stories about his start in documentary filmmaking and the failures he faced along the way. Watch the full speech below.
Maya Rudolph – Tulane University
During her commencement speech to Tulane University graduates in May, “Saturday Night Live” alum and “Bridesmaids” star Maya Rudolph was predictably hilarious. “I stand here humbled, gracious and completely naked under this robe,” she said while thanking the university for giving her the opportunity to speak. Her speech to the graduates continued the laughs but also got serious upon occasion, with her admitting that she was still unsure of her career path after graduating college. Coming back around to comedy, Rudolph’s advice took its cue from her improv days with The Groundlings Theater in L.A. “In Improvisation there is one hard and fast rule, and that rule is known as ‘Yes And,'” she said. “In the adding of information you don’t negate the other persons idea – but you build on it.” Watch the full speech below.
Matthew McConaughey – University of Houston
Academy Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Matthew McConaughey is pretty self-aware. In his commencement address at the University of Houston he spoke about what he does and does not know at this point in his life, eloquently stating the fears that many undergraduates have about leaving school. “For most of you, the future’s probably still pretty fuzzy,” he said. “You don’t have all the answers — and it’s scary.” He went on to give the graduates 13 lessons that he’s learned during his career, giving advice such as “where you are NOT is as important as where you are,” and referencing the infamous “Alright, Alright, Alright.” Read the full speech here.
Alan Alda – Carnegie Mellon University
Alan Alda’s speech to the graduates of Carnegie Mellon University on May 17 was deeply honest and thought-provoking. “In settings like this today, you’re going to hear all over the country, many of the same themes,” said the actor. “I wish instead I could just give you a few good tips on how just to get through life.” He spoke about uncertainty, explaining that he didn’t necessarily consider it to be a bad thing. “I don’t want to kid you into thinking that I’ve got this all worked out, that I know how to do it,” he said. “I’m still working it out myself.” Watch the full speech below.
Robert De Niro – New York University Tisch School of the Arts
Award winning actor Robert De Niro’s commencement speech to NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduates was given in true New York fashion. “Tisch graduates, you made it,” he said, “and you’re fucked.” His refusal to sugarcoat his words of advice was met with laughs, claps and cheers from a captive audience during his 16-minute long speech. The sardonic address was punctuated, though, by moments of wisdom. “When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense,” explained the two-time Academy Award winner (for “The Godfather Part II” and “Raging Bull”). “You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.” Watch the funny, inspiring speech below.