Eat a Good Breakfast: Words of Wisdom from Commencement Speeches

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Posted by: YPN South Bend on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Baz Luhrmann set a hypothetical commencement speech written by a Chicago Tribune columnist to music. The song reached number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, and when you read the original column, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young,” it’s not hard to see why the song inspired nostalgia for those who had graduated and excitement for those who were looking forward to growing up. It also didn’t hurt that it came out at the same time as Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)” that seemed ubiquitous on the airwaves as well.

That’s the last time a commencement speech has really been in such high demand, but words of wisdom are shared with graduating classes every year. Many of us may not have attended another commencement ceremony since our own, but there’s much to be learned from individuals speaking to a graduating class. Here are some of our favorite messages delivered to the Class of 2018.

Oprah Winfrey: USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

"Eat a good breakfast. It really pays off. Pay your bills on time. Recycle. Make your bed. Aim high. Say thank you to people and actually mean it. And know that what you tweet and post and Instagram today might be asked about in a job interview tomorrow or 20 years from tomorrow."

Chadwick Boseman, actor: Howard University

"Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose."

Abby Wambach, soccer star: Barnard College

"Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel."

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani: University of Pennsylvania

"It's great that you are a Wharton MBA, but please, don't act like it. What they mean is don't let it be a burden on you. Don't let it get in the way of seeing people as people and all they have to offer you, regardless of their title opposition. Acknowledging the wisdom and experience of a forklift operator or a security guard with 30 years on the job doesn't diminish your own experience. Acknowledging the sacrifices of others that enabled you to be in this position does not diminish the sacrifices you made on your own.

Be the type of leader that other people want to sacrifice for. Ask other for advice, no matter their jobs. And listen, really listen to their answers."

Jesmyn Ward, author: Tulane University

If you are one of those lucky people who are exceptionally good at an endeavor you’re passionate about, if you possess tireless ambition and keen direction, congratulations! You will go far and do well,” she said. “Your successes will come early and rapidly. If you are not one of those lucky people: If you are bewildered and confused and clinging tenaciously to some course you love, be patient. Work hard.

Hold your dream tightly to you and do everything you can to realize it, within reason. Take a step that will lead you toward the realization of your dream, and then take another, and another, and another.”

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