45 Pieces Of Wisdom From This Year's Commencement Speeches

As the school year came to a close, the Class of 2015 methodically donned their caps and gowns. Four years long and four years gone, these students must brace themselves for the unexpected realities of what is known as "the real world." Although each summer brings waves of trepidation to the prevailing graduating class, there is relief to be found at the finish line of commencement. If only for a moment, the most prominent and experienced politicians, innovators, entertainers and entrepreneurs pause their pursuits to advise and inspire our future generation. HuffPost noticed a trend in this year’s graduation speeches: Truth be told, our leaders love numbered lists. From George W. Bush to Denzel Washington to the Founder of Papa John’s, here are the most valuable lists of wisdom from this year’s commencement speakers.

President George W. Bush’s 2 Favorite Churchill Quotes:

  1. "Never give in, -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
  2. "These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race."

Papa John’s 3 Steps To A Good Life:

  1. Wake up
  2. Be nice
  3. Kick Ass

Rob Manning’s 6 Simple Lessons:

  1. Don’t define yourself by your weaknesses.
  2. Know your strengths and capitalize on them.
  3. It isn’t how well you learn or listen, but where you listen.
  4. Boldly go and take risks, it the only way great things happen.
  5. If you are going to “boldly go”, be prepared to “boldly fail”.
  6. Don’t forget to breath, live and fall in love.

Denzel Washington’s 4 Takeaways:

  1. Put God first: "Everything that I have is by the grace of God, understand that. It's a gift. ... I didn't always stick with Him, but He stuck with me."
  2. Fail big: "Don't be afraid to fail big, to dream big, but remember, dreams without goals, are just dreams. And they ultimately fuel disappointment. ... I try to give myself a goal every day, sometimes it's just not to curse somebody out."
  3. You'll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse: "I don't care how much money you make, you can't take it with you. ... It's not how much you have, it's what you do with it."
  4. While you're on your knees in the morning, say thank you: "Say thank you in advance for what is already yours. ... True desire in the heart for anything good is God's proof to you sent beforehand that it's already yours. ... When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don't just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference."

Howard Fineman’s 7 “C’s” To Be A Thoughtful Citizen:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Context
  4. Calm
  5. Compassion
  6. Connect
  7. Conscience

Arianna Huffington’s 3 Relationships:

  1. Your relationship with technology: “No generation has been as liberated and as connected by technology as yours. But also, no generation has been as enslaved and as distracted by technology.”
  2. Your relationship with yourself: “There will be many profound and fulfilling relationships ahead of you, but the relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you'll ever have.”
  3. Your relationship with the world: “There is an invisible but very real and inescapable connection between our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with the world... Don't get so caught up in your busy life that life's mystery passes you by.”

John Stumpf’s 3 Wishes:

I wish someone had taught me about…

  1. The changing world I was going to go enter.
  2. The journey of learning.
  3. How to develop and build a career.

Lisa G. Szarkowski's 2 Messages:

  1. "From me, please don't ever let anyone or anything take your empathy."
  2. "In my travels of late, I asked children if they could send a message, any message, to you, what would it be? And here is the winning theme: You are lucky. Yes, you with the student loans and no jobs, you are lucky. "

Gavin Newsom’s 3 Topics Worthy Of Addressing:


  1. Diversity: “At our best we don’t just tolerate our diversity. We celebrate our diversity”
  2. Leadership: “You don’t have to be something to do something. Take responsibility. Step up and step in. Because at the end of the day, folks, we are our behaviors.”
  3. Anxiety: “Start failing forward fast”

Tom Brokaw’s 4 Mantras For “The New Age:"

  1. Do not be afraid to be disruptive.
  2. Find new ways to do the conventional.
  3. Do not run from big and bold challenges.
  4. Be the generation that sees a friend or a stranger for who they are, and not just the color of their skin.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 8 Things You Should Know (Including 4 Cosmic Points):

  1. Your grades, whatever is your GPA, rapidly becomes irrelevant in your life.
  2. It’s okay to not know, that’s what school is for. That’s okay. But if you don’t know, but think you do know, and have power over legislation that would affect others, that is dangerous. Those are the signs of the end of an informed democracy.
  3. Science matters.
  4. If you have an issue with politicians it's because you have an issue with your fellow citizens who put them there.
  5. Role models are overrated.
  6. Some cosmic points:
    • - The universe is bigger than you are.
    • - If someone invites you to go to Mars, just remember how beautiful Earth is before you do that. You can breathe the air, you know, things like this.
    • - However, do not forget that Earth is really good at killing you. Ninety-seven percent of all the species of life on Earth that have ever existed are now extinct.
    • - The sun is a limitless source of energy. Oil, under the ground? Not so much.
  7. I don't know what has happened to the world. But you're up next in the batter's box. It's up to you. If it’s okay with you that everyone is looking at you [through government surveillance], alright. It’s not okay with me. It’s not okay with people who remember what it really meant to live in a free society.
  8. It is okay to encourage others to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. But if you do, just remember that some people have no boots.

BONUS: NASA's 10 Predictions For The Future (From Rob Manning):

  1. You will look great on your 110th birthday. You will be among the first to tell tales spanning three centuries.
  2. You will be able to talk to a robot like you talk to your closest friend, but you will not completely trust him.
  3. The Internet will prove to be a valuable contribution to society.
  4. “Road rage” will be the name of the computer virus that got into your self-driving car.
  5. You too will feel conflicted when your smart-watch and all of the other smart objects in your house will unionize against you.
  6. You will live in a world where the inner workings of the human mind will be fully mapped, but you will still not be able to find the humor in your husband’s jokes or understand your wife’s need to tell her friends everything.
  7. You will see people walk on Mars. They will get dusty, cold and tire of salmon colored skies. They will want to come home.
  8. Robots to the outer planets will find single cell life lurking in the depths of the vast oceans of the icy moons. The life will politely ask us to leave.
  9. Starbucks will plumb coffee into homes across America but it will still be more fun to hang around the baristas.
  10. You will learn to love GMO vegetables, like those caffeine-laden carrots that work nearly as well as the Starbucks from the faucet.