Commencement 2019

5/10/2019, 6 a.m.
It’s graduation season and the commencement ceremonies are starting, first with area colleges and universities and next, with local high ...

It’s graduation season and the commencement ceremonies are starting, first with area colleges and universities and next, with local high schools.

Anxious graduates, along with their excited families, will sit through the formal functions, with the only thing separating them from their degrees and diplomas being the commencement speaker.

Generally, when you ask people who spoke at their graduation, they may recall the name of the person, but rarely do they remember what the person said.

We recollect being thrilled when Buckminster Fuller, a genius Renaissance man of his day who patented the geodesic dome, was announced as the speaker for a close friend’s graduation. But we, along with much of the crowd, were disappointed because Mr. Fuller, who was old at the time, mumbled and rambled on like a mad scientist talking to himself instead of addressing the packed stadium. 

Commencement speakers typically will quote a poem or two, like Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled ...”

(From “The Road Not Taken”)

Or Dr. Seuss:


Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.”

(From “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”)

Or even Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”:

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you ...”

Speakers also will try to infuse their message with humor:

“Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”

(Patricia Neal, Northwestern University, 1979)

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”


So in this time and place of uncertainty and upheaval in our nation and around the globe, we offer here some clip-and-save advice from great thinkers and great leaders that we hope will inspire, motivate and launch the Class of 2019 toward a brighter and more secure future. 


“If you stay hungry, if you keep hustling, if you keep on your grind and get other folks to do the same — nobody can stop you.”

— President Barack Obama, Morehouse College, 2013

“Each one of us is born with the seeds of success. Our parents, our environment and colleges and universities ... plant the seeds, till the soil, nurture and nourish each one of us until we develop into that special someone who can compete with anybody, anywhere, at any level. ... If you have a goal, a dream, you must be persistent, remain determined with a laser-like focus on what you want. My father would always say to us, ‘If the front door is closed to you, go around to the back door and see if that is open. If that is closed, go around to the side of the house to see it they left a window open. If that is closed, jump up on the roof to see if you can get it. Just keep trying! Never give up, never, never give up! Because the only person that can stop you is — you!’ ”