Friday, October 20th, 2017

7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

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Blog Post by Boomer54 Mark

Famous, Funny and Great College Graduation Commencement Speeches From Baby Boomers


Some of the best commencement speeches in the first decade of the twenty-first century have been delivered by famous baby boomers. College graduation commencement speeches vary as widely as the listening audience. While most speakers attempt to deliver great commencement speeches, sometimes the story of the speaker is what makes the speech memorable.

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david foster wallace great college commencement speeches 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

Mr. Wallace delivered the commencement address at Kenyon University in 2005. His life work as the author of darkly ironic short stories, essays, and novels generated great interest among his many followers. He was considered one of the most influential authors of his generation.

His college commencement speeches were known as meandering discussions with an insightful thought thrown in the middle or near the end.

At Kenyon in 2005, his most powerful statement was, “learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.” The statement lacks power until after David Wallace Foster takes his own life in September 2008. His fans realize that the statement was a description of his own struggle to escape the depressed thoughts to which he would finally succumb.


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steve jobs famous commencement speech at Stanford University 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Steve Jobs Stanford 2005

Steve Jobs

Mr. Jobs delivered the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. Since he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, his sense of life’s fragility has become one of the most famous commencement speeches ever delivered.

On that day the Stanford graduates were challenged to, “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition… Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”

Nearly six years later, Steve Jobs continues to be one of the shining examples of a man who never, “wasted his time living someone else’s life.” Graduates from Stanford’s class of 2005 will always remember that speech as one of the best commencement speeches they have ever heard.


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Conan OBrien college graduation commencement speech 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Conan O'Brien

Conan O’Brien

Mr. O’Brien started out as one of the writers of Saturday Night Live. His wit and humor have been the core of his career so when he was invited to his alma mater, Harvard University in 2000. Everyone waited for his delivery of one of those humorous commencement speeches.

Along with Conan’s wit came wisdom that few people knew he possessed. He admonished the graduates to, “fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over.”

His unexpected openness about life’s bumps and scrapes made this one of the most memorable graduation commencement speeches of the year. Conan was honest about losing jobs and having to find his way in an unforgiving industry. He laced honesty, wisdom, and humor as only a man named Conan can.

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Bradley Whitford University of Wisconsin graduation commencement speech 150x133 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Bradley Whitford 2004 Commencement Speech University of Wisconsin

Bradley Whitford

Mr. Whitford played the role of White House deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman on the hit NBC TV series, “The West Wing.” After winning an Emmy in 2003, for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, he was invited to the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2004 to deliver the commencement address.

Bradley’s role on one of the most successful tv series of all time did not lessen the impact of this most notable of graduation commencement speeches. He brought sage advice to the graduates when he reminded them to, “learn what you can and move on. At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not by your stumble.”

The content of his speech makes one wonder if he was admonished to stay in line with past commencement speeches at the university.

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barbara kingsolver duke university great commencement speech 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver

Ms. Kingsolver is one of the most recognized authors of literary anthologies in the twenty-first century. She was invited to Duke University’s commencement exercises to deliver one of the college commencement speeches.

Barbara’s address was not expected to be one of the funny commencement speeches, and she met that expectation by telling the graduates much about the world around us. She shared the many attempts by society to change the world, and “… every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, ‘We already did. We have made the world new.’ The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on.”

She warned the graduates of the tendency to, “ accumulate wealth and of, in this age of digital connectedness, our increasing isolation from one another.”

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stephen colbert famous college graduation commencement speeches 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Stephen Colbert Knox 2006 Knox College

Stephen Colbert

Mr. Colbert was invited to Knox College in 2006 to deliver what most thought would be one of the most humorous commencement speeches of all time. No one was sure if Stephen, the comedian, or Stephen, the invented TV personality would take the stage.

While graduates and other audience members anticipated what should have been one of Colbert’s funny commencement speeches, Colbert was trying to decide which personality to present. His words wandered between many topics and then ended with a powerful admonition to the graduates.

“Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or be disappointed in us,” he told the class of 2006. “Cynics always say no … for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.”

Even Colbert seemed to realize that great college graduation commencement speeches must include a reminder of the ins and outs of adulthood.

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bill cosby famous graduation commencement speech carnegie mellon 150x150 7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation

Bill Cosby Carnegie Mellon 2009

Bill Cosby

No list of great commencement speeches is complete without the king of all humorous commencement speeches, Dr. William Henry Cosby, Jr., even though he is not a Boomer. Known to everyone as Bill Cosby, this comedic genius was raised in Philadelphia by two hard-working parents. Although Mr. Cosby was the class clown, he grew to learn the value of a solid education.

Of the most famous Bill Cosby commencement speeches, there are videos and transcripts that reveal the masterful delivery powerful messages nestled among hilarious statements of truth.

At Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, Bill Cosby delivered one of his most famous commencement speeches while dressed in a full sweat suit.


Another great example of one of the Bill Cosby commencement speeches was at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He reminded the graduates of the importance of change by saying, “Number one, I would like to tell you not to try to make changes in the world. Make changes in yourself and that will make changes in the world. Number two, set goals…set simple goals like pay off your student loan…like get up in the morning when the bell rings.Number three, have a good meal today, sort of like dead student walking.”

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Conclusion

Famous commencement speeches are remembered because of the particular location, date, and current events that surround the speaker. Each invited speaker must be aware of past commencement speeches and the approaches that have been memorable to the most important people in the room, the graduates. Humor is effective when coupled with wisdom that makes each graduate aware of their role to make a difference in the world.

Comments

One Response to “7 Famous Commencement Speeches From The Baby Boomer Generation”
  1. I gotta go with Steve Jobs speech as my number 1 pick. Nothing is more inspiring that than the reality of today and the fragility of the human being.

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