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10 Brilliant celebrity graduation speeches

Check out 10 of the most wonderful, inspirational and funny commencement/graduation day speeches from celebrities including P Diddy, Jim Carrey and Tom Hanks...

Oprah Winfrey speaking at Harvard

Graduation Day (or ‘Commencement Day’ as it is known in the States) is a day of great joy and achievement for university graduates as they finally receive their diploma following years of hard work.

Families travel from around the world to see their children graduate in a big ceremony hosted by the university. It’s also a lovely opportunity for students to see their families (it may have been a while, especially for international students) and to reflect on their time at university before they join the "adult world".

The ceremony can be quite long but there’s a lot to fit in including the actual handing out of diplomas, speeches from various members of the university community, musical performances, videos and more. The highlight of many graduations is the speech given by a guest speaker who is often a celebrity or famous figure. Sometimes this person will be connected to the university in an official capacity (e.g. they’ll be a vice chancellor). Other times it’s simply a notable figure who is a role model of some kind whom the university feel the students look up to and who will have something important to say. Often the highest ranked universities will attract the more famous names to speak. The speech will be somewhat light and will include jokes (especially if the speaker is a comedian or works in show business); but ultimately it will have an inspiring, enlightening and thoughtful message.

Below we take a look at some of the best celebrity graduation speeches in recent years...


J.K. Rowling, Harvard 2008


Steve Jobs, University of Stanford 2005


P Diddy, Harvard University 2014


Jim Carrey, Maharishi University 2014


Tom Hanks, Yale 2011


Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University 2013


Ellen Degeneres, Tulane 2009


Amy Poehler, Harvard University 2014


Tim Minchin, University of Western Australia


Mindy Kaling, Harvard Law School 2014



Read more:

‘5 Unspoken rules of graduation’

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About Author

Oprah Winfrey speaking at Harvard

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.