If you're anything like my family, you've heard just about every graduation cliche in the book — the Webster's Dictionary quotes, the inevitable "commencement is a beginning, not an end" lines. Fortunately, some people know how to deliver a truly great graduation speech, one that's witty, memorable and inspiring - or at least really amusing. (Hey, no one invites Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg to speak at Class Day in order to hear a tribute to world peace.)
So, the next time you're stuck listening to some interminable speech - or you need a pithy "As Jane Lynch once said..." quote to jot in a graduation card - think of these excerpts from the best graduation, baccalaureate and class day speeches of 2012, delivered by this roster of notable speakers. Page through or click the quick links below. (And you'll find the five best speeches of 2013 here.)
- Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts: On mutated boa constrictors, exploding cats and practical, inspirational advice for artists, musicians and writers.
- Peter Dinklage at Bennington: On the importance of seizing the dream and not waiting for the world to say it's time.
- Jane Lynch at Smith: On the power of "Yes, and..."
- Oprah Winfrey at Spelman: On being in the driver's seat of life.
- Adam Savage at Sarah Lawrence: On the career-wisdom of being kind.
As for Samberg's speech, it wasn't practical, wise or inspirational - his tips for success included "cut a hole in a box," for heaven's sakes - but it was funny. (You'll find the video on YouTube. But then come on back and read about the good speeches!)