Words from the Wise: Best Advice From 2018 Celebrity Commencement Speakers!

Written by Meagan Gitelman. Published: June 18 2018


Before Summer officially begins, it’s graduation season! Whether you graduated high school this year, college, or none of the above, everyone loves a good inspirational speech. Some of our favorite celebrities delivered some words of wisdom from their successes... and their failures. Everyone from Queen Latifah to the queen herself, Oprah, offered their best advice. Here are a few of the more rousing moments and messages from celebrity commencement speeches this year that have inspired us to live our best lives!


Josh Groban: Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

May 5, High Point University

“Many times you will discover saying ‘no’ is the real 'yes'. When you’re strong enough to know that what someone else thinks is right for you, ‘what you should do,’ isn’t. Those gut checks are just as valuable and just as important, and oftentimes even harder to act on. But work that muscle, and don’t be afraid to hurt a little bit when you do.”


Oprah Winfrey: Stand Up For Change

May 11, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

“The question is: what are you willing to stand for? That question is going to follow you throughout your life. And here’s how you answer it: you put your honor where your mouth is. When you give your word, keep it. Show up. Do the work. Get your hands dirty. Then you’ll begin to draw strength from the understanding that history is still being written. You’re writing it, everyday. The wheel’s still in spin, and what you do or don’t do will be a part of it. You build a legacy not from one thing, but from everything.”




Chance the Rapper: Be Greater Than You Can Imagine

May 12, Dillard University

“All of us have a responsibility to be greater than the people who came before us. We have a responsibility to be not as good as them or live up to their example, but to actually surpass them, even when it seems scary. We have to overcome that fear and be greater than our role models.”




Abby Wambach: Embrace Failure

May 16, Barnard College

“Failure is not something to be ashamed of; it’s something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.”




Queen Latifah: Love Is All You Need

May 14, Rutgers University

“You may not realize it today, but you will overtime that the love you find in family, of every size, shape, and makeup, is a powerful teacher. Make you sure you stay enrolled in that class as long as you can.”




Jimmy Fallon: How to Live A Good Life

June 3, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

“Be kind. Think ahead. Have courage. Try new things. Remember the past but don't stay there. Honor your fellow humans. Keep laughing. Celebrate anything you can as often as you can because it's fun. Write letters and send them with a stamp in the mailbox, try that. Say hello to people. Smile more often. Be kind to people who wait on your table, bag your groceries, move your furniture. And when you dance, dance from the inside.”




SZA: Keep Faith

June 4, Columbia High School

“You have to pay attention to how God is working in your life in tiny, tiny ways. You have to listen closely for how He’s working in your life. It starts with compassion. It starts with trusting yourself, even if people are telling you you're too young to trust yourself.”




J.J. Watts: Bring Out The Best In Others

June 5, 2018, Baylor College of Medicine

“What I challenge you to do, is to help bring out that inherit good in everyone around you. Help be that positive light. Help be that person that everyone else wants to be around. Help be that energy that takes this world into an even better place. Because if we all do a little bit, we all do our part, we can truly change the world one person at a time.”




Mindy Kaling: Be Your Own Cheerleader
June 10, Dartmouth College
"I’ve covered a lot of ground today, not all of it was serious, but I wanted to leave you with this: I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do. I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered, 'Why not me?' And I kept whispering it for seventeen years; and here I am, someone that this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your Commencement. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You made it this far."


Congrats, Grads! Now got out there and change the world!


(Image via Leon Bennett/Getty Images)


- Meagan Gitelman, YH Contributing Writer; additional reporting by Kyla Killackey