The 10 Most Phenomenal Commencement Speeches of 2015

1. Actor Ed Helms at the University of Virginia

“As you go out in the world, you’ll find that people are always quick to define you, to pigeonhole you, to whittle you down to their preconceived notions—which brings me to my point: never let others define you. Define yourselves.”

2. President George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University

“Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And, as I like to tell the C-students, you too can be president.”

3. Apple CEO Tim Cook at George Washington University

“We believe that a company that has values and acts on them can really change the world. And an individual can too. That can be you. That must be you. Graduates, your values matter. They are your North Star. Otherwise it’s just a job—and life is too short for that.”

4. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Tufts University

“Back in the 1960s, this is where I met one of my heroes, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, after he delivered a speech. I never, ever, imagined then that I would one day be appointed to Acheson’s job. It’s not that I lacked ambition, it’s just that I had never seen a Secretary of State in a skirt.”

5. CNBC’s Chris Matthews, at Saint Mary’s College of California

Well here you are graduating and most of your life you had it all figured out. You go from first grade to second grade, and you make it to 12th grade and then go from freshman, sophomore, juniors, and seniors in high school and then you do it all over again. And it’s really easy, because you can always know what is coming next. And now, you poor S.O.B.s, you don’t know what’s next, do you?”

6. Stephen Colbert at Wake Forest University

“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.”

7. Maya Rudolph at Tulane University

“It really is a true honor to be with all of you as you begin this new phase of your life – as you embark on this exciting and challenging journey of being sober during the day.”

8. Author Joe Plumeri at New York Law School

“You want to be compelling? You gotta know vision, you gotta know commitment, you gotta know purpose and you gotta know passion. But knowing the words is not enough. Everybody knows those words, but they don’t know the music.”

9. Meredith Vieira at Boston University

“Remember last Super Bowl, when the Patriots won? You may be thinking of Tom Brady’s deflated balls right now, but I’m thinking of Katy Perry’s halftime performance. She was on stage dancing with two sharks. 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.’”

10. Robert DeNiro at NYU’s Tisch School For the Arts

“You discovered a talent, developed an ambition, and recognized your passion. When you feel that you can’t fight it, you just go for it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. Yeah, you’re f–ked. The good news is, that’s not a bad place to start.”

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Jenna Crowley

Jenna used to be known as 2NOTBrokeGirls, but then one of the girls actually went broke, so she's struck out on her own. Jenna spends her free time saving the world, one sorority girl at a time (usually while wearing yoga pants), questioning why she decided to get a doctorate, and documenting her love of all things cheese related. You can ask her anything you want about football, using your boobs to get what you want, and pizza at @JennaLCrowley on Twitter or via email at

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