3 Motivational Commencement Speeches by Celebrities | Class of 2020

Every year, celebrities take part in motivational commencement speeches to help send graduates off to the next stage in their life, whether that be furthering their education, joining the workforce, or another path. 2020 was a bit different with the coronavirus, and most commencement speeches occurred virtually rather than in-person. Here are a few of the ones that stood out the most this year.

Student graduating in the class of 2020.

Alicia Keys: Savannah College of Art and Design

Alicia Keys definitely gave a unique speech this year, sitting by her piano, playing, singing, and talking to those students who were graduating this year from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Here are some of the highlights:

“You are the artists, the creators, the designers, the next incarnation of this beautiful planet that needs redesign.”

“You already have everything you need inside of your right now, today. And it makes me excited, ’cause I think that if the world gets to experience your brand of excellence…man, we’re gonna be all right.”

“Be unafraid to be completely you, and accept all those other individuals that you meet as they are, you know what I mean? And join together, because nothing can get in the way, nothing’s ever going to get in the way of your greatness.”


Conan O’Brien: Harvard University

Conan O’Brien, being no stranger to them, definitely had a fun approach to his own commencement speech for Harvard. Dressed fully in a robe and with a lectern, he delivered his speech from his own backyard. He had quite a few inspirational quotes for 2020 graduates during times like these, full of the brand of humor Conan is known for.

Check out the highlights:

“You’ve been challenged your entire lives, and you’ve demonstrated one of the most precious qualities one can have: resilience.”

“Now, cynics like to mock the supposedly spoiled or callow youth of the new millennia, but you have seen and survived so much, and you’ve responded with wit, creativity, righteous anger, activism, and a gritty determination to take the reality you’ve been handed and make it better.”

“So today is unusual in two respects. First, this iconic 384-year-old ceremony is online. And we are strangely separate on a day that’s supposed to embody community. Second, and more important, today’s unusual because at this commencement you commence nothing. You, and your uniquely tested peers, your generation, commenced long ago while the rest of us were complaining about the Sopranos finale.”


Tom Hanks: Wright State University

Tom Hanks delivered his virtual commencement speech for the department of theatre, dance, and motion pictures at Wright State University. This was shortly after his own battle with COVID-19, but fully recovered. He also noted the current changing times we’re in and called the students “chosen ones. Hanks acknowledging their creative fire, temperament, discipline, and instincts for their desires.

Here are some highlight quotes:

“You will have made it through the time of great sacrifice and great need and no one will be more fresh to the task of restarting our measure of normalcy than you. You chosen ones.”

“Every class of every year moves up into the rotation and proves their value by living their values. But this class, your class, isn’t just doing the work that has to be done, you’re joining in the work that has to be done.”

“The future is always uncertain, but we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down.”


Other Notable Speakers

2020 graduation ceremonies were definitely a change for all students and commencement speakers. Several celebrates, including Oprah, Matthew McConaughey, Simone Biles, and others also took part in the #Graduation2020 event on May 15. Former President Barack also gave three virtual commencement speeches for those graduating from historically black colleges and universities. The event also featured Chris Paul, Steve Harvey, Wyclef Jean, and more.

Know of any other motivational commencement speeches? Share your choice in the comments below.

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