Here are a few inspirational lines from this year’s speeches:
- Arianna Huffington to Smith College graduates: Confessing to greater things in life than the American dollar, Huffington said, “I want to ask you …to redefine success….At the moment, our society’s notion of success is largely composed of two parts: money and power. …But it’s time for a third metric…one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.”
- Barack Obama to Morehouse College graduates: The President admitted that his success came from “the special obligation I felt…to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had—because there but for the grace of God, go I.” Speaking intimately about his desire to be a better father and good husband, he claimed that, “success in every other aspect of life means nothing without success at home.”
- Stephen Colbert to University of Virginia graduates: Acknowledging that success involved hard work and perseverance, Colbert said, “You may learn sooner than most generations the hard lesson that you must always make the path for yourself. There is no secret society out there that will tap you on your shoulder one night and show you the way.”
- Nate Silver to Ripon College graduates: Silver urged graduates to look inside themselves and embrace their differences, conceding, “We are all small creatures in an incredibly large and complex universe. When the science suggests that our best laid plans are failing, it’s much more likely that the fault lies with us—with our assumptions.”
- Melinda Gates to Duke University graduates: Admitting that the ability to connect via technology means nothing if you can’t create positive change, Gates pleaded, “I don’t want you to connect, for connection’s sake alone. I want you to connect because it will inspire you to do something—to take action, to make a difference in the world. Humanity in the abstract will never inspire you the way meeting another human being will. Poverty is not going to inspire you to do something, but meeting people—that will inspire you!”
- Cory Booker to Yale College graduates: Confessing that what’s inside yourself is what counts the most, Booker said, “Real courage is holding on to a still voice in your head that says, ‘I must keep going.’ It’s that voice that says, ‘Nothing is a failure if it is not final.’ That voice that says to you, ‘Get out of bed. Keep going. I will not quit.’”
I listened to all of these speeches. And I felt inspired. But only for a moment. Because speeches are only words. Well meaning, yes. But only words.