Advice from This Year’s Commencement Speakers

Each time this year, a choice group of people — from talk show hosts, to comedians, to the President of the United States himself — find themselves standing before the new crop of college graduates, with the intention of offering some advice in the form of the commencement speech. So without further adieu, here’s a look at some of the more notable speeches from this graduation season:

Barack Obama

Claim to fame: President of the United States
School addressed: Barnard College
Date of commencement: May 14
Why notable: Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary or controversial here, but hey, it’s the president of the United States.
Best sound bite: “It’s up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely. It’s up to you to stand up and be heard, to write, and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote. Don’t be content just to sit back and watch.” (Read the full speech here)

Michael R. Bloomberg

Claim to fame: Mayor of New York City
School addressed: University of North Carolina
Date of commencement: May 13
Why notable: The mayor blasted the state for its vote the previous week to ban same-sex marriage.
Best sound bites: “Each and every generation has removed some barrier to full participation in the American dream. That work is not over. Far from it … Now, it’s up to all of you – in your own way – to take what you have learned here, and spread light and liberty wherever you go.” (Read the full speech here)

Aaron Sorkin

Claim to fame: Oscar-winning writer of The Social Network and Emmy-winning writer of The West Wing
School addressed: Syracuse University
Date of commencement: May 13
Why notable: Among the celebrity speeches this year, the Syracuse alum’s speech, which got much applause when he noted he’s been 11 years cocaine-free, has been considered among the most moving and inspiring.
Best sound bite: “Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit; things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character.” (Read the full speech here)

Neil Gaiman

Claim to fame: Author of The Sandman, American Gods, Coraline, and more.
School addressed: The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa.
Date of commencement: May 17
Why notable: This has already been hailed as one of the best commencement speeches of the year for its humor and earnestness.
Best sound bites: “I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you make mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something … Rules are breaking down, gatekeepers are leaving their gates. Old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are, so make up your own rules.” (Read the full speech here)