Celebrating Graduation 2020 with the Best Commencement Speeches

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Student Lifehacks
best commencement speeches for your college graduation

During this turbulent year, high school and college commencement activities are postponed. However, many colleges moved their graduation celebrations online, and YouTube and Facebook have something for us as well! The times have been tough, though there is no need to give up on having some fun and celebrating your achievements with others! Here we review a bunch of options for the online celebration of Graduation in 2020. The most significant thing to do is to watch (or read) the best commencement speeches ever given!

All in-person ceremonies are delayed until we can convene again without posing any danger to each other’s health. Nevertheless, this and next weeks, colleges and universities across the US are planning a bunch of online activities instead of usual celebrations to ensure their graduates have a festive atmosphere. Well, unless you’ve already had a Fauxmencement in March like in Olin college (well-done, grads)! In any case, there is no need to give up on doing something fun on your commencement day! Even if you’re not yet graduating this year, you can easily join the celebratory atmosphere. 

Global Online Commencement Celebrations in 2020

The first place to go is Facebook. On May 15, the graduation organized by Facebook will be marked by an address given by Oprah Winfrey! The guest list is packed with other celebrities—here you can check the details—mark the calendar and get on board!

The high school graduation is scheduled for May 16 and will be aired on several channels and streamed online. The cherry on the cake is an address by Barack Obama! 

YouTube streams its virtual commencement for the graduating cohort of 2020—called “Dear Class of 2020“—on June 6. It is hosted by Barack and Michele Obama, CEO Sundar Pichai, Lady Gaga, and other inspiring figures of the decade. Join the celebration from anywhere! 

celebrating graduation online in 2020
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

How to Сelebrate Graduation at Home

If you are graduating this year—take the credit and celebrate. You’ve deserved all the praise; moreover, you belong to a unique class of 2020.

First, there are various ideas for online celebrations and connecting to your friends and teachers. You can always host an online graduation party for your friends and family, along with the official digital events of your college. Facebook and Instagram added special features (like graduation countdown stickers and new AR effects) for a festive mood!


Celebrations require a proper soundtrack. Check this Best of Graduation playlist: dance, jump, and practice throwing your cap in the air!

To wrap into the graduation atmosphere even better, you can rewatch some of the canonical movies about high school and college. High School Musical, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Legally Blond are the best for hitting nostalgia! 

Want to get a piece of advice on what to do with your life next? That’s a crucial contemplative exercise for all recent grads, and the best guide for such a self-exploration is Kurt Vonnegut. His If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? The Graduation Speeches and Other Words to Live By is a collection of nine graduation addresses that this incredible author gave throughout his career—you can buy and get it shipped to your doorstep with BooksRun. With so much practice, he has undoubtedly nailed this art of commencement addresses. His speeches are full of jokes, reveries, and very practical wisdom.

However, don’t you ever skip the most traditional and moving element of any graduation ceremony—a commencement speech! This year, you can choose anybody to be your guide (and not a dreary dude your college would have otherwise invited). Watch these five addresses that are thought-provoking, inspiring, compassionate, and witty.

J.K. Rowling’s Commencement Speech at Harvard

Her speech, given at Harvard University in 2008, is probably one of the most known addresses of the last decades! What is your takeaway from Rowling’s words? Use your imagination and practice empathy. And the best one—don’t be afraid of your failures, since to err is the only way to grow. Her address is also a great example of well-designed eloquence.

If you want to get even more advice from J.K. Rowling, read her book Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. It is a remastered version of her Harvard address. These inspirational words of wisdom can become your power book; keep it at hand when facing any difficulties or hard choices in your life.

Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Address at the University of the Arts

The author of American Gods is surely entitled to advise students graduating in Arts, as he did in 2012 at the University of the Arts in Pennsylvania. Although Neil Gaiman himself never attended college, as was the case for Steve Jobs, nevertheless, they both gave one of the most memorable commencement speeches ever!

Gaiman’s statement on the power of creativity and bravery encapsulates his own blood, sweat, and tears shed on his way to success. The zest of his advice is to make extraordinary choices, think outside the box, and work hard—you gain success in your field through endless practice. The graduation ceremony inspired him to enclose this wisdom in a book—Make Good Art is also available at BooksRun.

Steve Jobs’ Graduation Speech at Stanford 

The most praised authors are not the only ones to give amazing speeches. The address that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005 is clearly the most-viewed commencement speech—34 million views on YouTube! Of course, it is due to the mesmerizing aura of Jobs, who became the icon of the new century. But there is much more in his words—the speech is very touching and full of wisdom based on his own experiences. Its central message inspired graduating students 15 years later and continues to do so—find what you love and don’t be afraid to start all over.

If you want to learn more about Steve Jobs’ life and take something for yourself from his experiences, read the engaging biography by Walter Isaacson. Again, this speech is not only a fountain of wisdom but an example of oratorical excellence. For those wishing to master Jobs’ presentation skills, there is a toolkit a few clicks away—The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

David Foster Wallace Address at Kenyon College

The acclaimed author and columnist gave this speech at Kenyon College in 2005. It is yet another canonical speech that triggered the appearance of a book. In 2009, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life was published. Presented more like an extended essay, the speech conveys a powerful message that preserves the life philosophy of this compassionate person, even after his death. 

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race”, the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing. 

David Foster Wallace in This is Water

Isn’t it an inspiring thought to continue your great life outside college?

Meryl Streep Addresses Grads at Barnard College 

At Barnard College, Columbia University Commencement in 2010, Meryl Streep also talked about compassion and empathy. These qualities are a continuous thread appearing in all the mentioned speeches. After ten years, it still hits the point and is acute as never: “This is your time, and it feels normal to you, but really there is no normal. There’s only change and resistance to it, and then more change.” 

If you want to know more about Queen Meryl, get a look at her recent biography Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep by Erin Carlson. The renowned actress also gives the best touching advice in our age of over-achieving and productivity race:

You don’t have to be famous. You just have to make your mother and father proud of you… and you already have.

Meryl Streep in her commencement address at Barnard College
congratulating graduating students
Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash

These days should be full of positive emotions (it is also helpful with exam prep!) Don’t be ashamed of feeling delighted and gratified. However, there is certainly room for some bittersweet feelings since you’re not close with those who walked side by side with you throughout these high school or college years. But for now, warm words are instead of real hugs, so we hope that you enjoy this collection of expert advice for graduates.

Congratulations to the very special class of 2020 from BooksRun. We are proud of you!

Iliana K