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HBX Business Blog

Words of Wisdom from 2016 Commencement Speakers

Posted by HBX on May 26, 2016 at 11:22 AM


It's graduation season here in the US! Although commencement speeches are aimed at new graduates entering the real world, they also contain advice that is applicable to all of us. In honor of today's Harvard University Commencement, here are some of the best excerpts from this year's graduation addresses.

"I hope that you live your life -- each precious day of it -- with joy and meaning. I hope that you walk without pain -- and that you are grateful for each step. And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are -- and you just might become the very best version of yourself."

Sheryl Sandberg to University of California at Berkeley class of 2016

"When life tells you no, find a way to keep things in perspective. That doesn’t make the painful moments any less painful. But it does mean you don’t have to live forever in the pain. You don’t have to live forever in that “no.” Because if you know what you’re capable of, if you’re always prepared, and you keep things in perspective, then life has a way of turning no into yes."

Russell Wilson to University of Wisconsin class of 2016

"If you disagree with somebody, bring them in - and ask them tough questions. Hold their feet to the fire. Make them defend their positions. If somebody has got a bad or offensive idea, prove it wrong. Engage it. Debate it. Stand up for what you believe in. Don't be scared to take somebody on. Don't feel like you got to shut your ears off because you're too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities. Go at them if they’re not making any sense. Use your logic and reason and words. And by doing so, you’ll strengthen your own position, and you’ll hone your arguments. And maybe you’ll learn something and realize you don't know everything. And you may have a new understanding not only about what your opponents believe but maybe what you believe. Either way, you win."

President Barack Obama to Rutgers University class of 2016

"At this moment in your life you know fewer limits, fewer taboos and fewer fears than you will ever in the future. So do not squander your ignorance. Go out and do what your teachers and parents thought could not be done -- and what they never thought of doing."

Peter Thiel to Hamilton College class of 2016