6 Inspiring Convocation Speeches

Speaking to graduating students in Delhi, Raghuram Rajan joked that his words might be soon forgotten. ETPanache rounds up lectures that stayed with you long after they were delivered
It has been the season of convoca tion speeches. Last week Larry Ellison exhorted students not to put too high a premium on mon ey. Not long before that RBI governor Raghuram Rajan delivered the convocation address at the Shiv Nadar University in Delhi. He began the address by saying, “If you even remember a word I say a few years from now, I will have surpassed the average convocation speaker.“Rajan may think that most students don’t remember their graduation address. But a few speakers have bucked the trend, the text of their convocation speeches proving inspirational even years later. Some of the most memorable ones include:
6 Inspiring Convocation Speeches

Steve Jobs at Stanford University (2005)

On the graduation sp e e ch p opu l a r ity charts, this one comes up tops. The Apple founder delivered this address just a year after being diagnosed with cancer. Gr appl i n g with the concept of mor t a l it y, mor t a l it y, Jobs spoke about infusing each moment with meaning and purpose. Live the dream, follow your heart.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.“


Ratan Tata at Rajarambapu Institute of Technology (2013)

The former chairman of the Tata Group is a dream speaker for a graduating class of students. His day job for over two decades was to oversee the global expansion of the salt to software major. Post retirement, he has invested in several ecommerce startups.

“View this moment as moving from a protected environment to an environment where you have to learn and listen because your whole world is going to be learning and listening. is going to be learning and listening.Your success is going to be your humility.“

APJ Abdul Kalam at Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (2012)


As the president of India, Kalam had his hands full with official duties and engagements. And yet, he managed to spend a significant amount of time with the young minds of India. As the keynote speaker at IIT Guwahati, he shared his ideas for India by the year 2020. He urged students to develop as many ways of increasing employment in the country as possible.

“You should write it (what the student would like to be remembered for) down on a page.That page may be a very important page in the book of history.“

Sheryl Sandberg at University of California Berkeley (2016)


Over the weekend, the COO of Facebook delivered a 30-minute-long com mencement address at her alma mater.Sandberg, who lost her husband over a year ago, chose to share with students her learnings in death. It was the first time that she spoke publicly about that experience and it was an emotional moment for her.

“I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.“

JK Rowling at Harvard University (2003)


The graduating class of 2003 received its diplomas from the Harry Potter crea tor. Rowling’s 20-minute speech ad dressed the twin themes of the ben efits of failure and the importance of imagination. She stressed on the fact that life isn’t a checklist and following one’s heart will probably have its consequences. But it will all be worth it in the end.

“We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.“

Stephen Colbert at Northwestern University (2011)


The US late night talk show host and sati rist was his usual funny self during his commencement speech to the graduating class of his alma mater. Like many before him and those after him, he also wishes he could meet his younger self and dole out some advice. Including, not wearing white jeans, ever, even on a cruise.

“Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are .mostly just making things up as you go along.“

#6 Inspiring Convocation Speeches