This year, the world as we know it has changed forever. But, for some of us, it was bound to happen anyway. This ‘some of us’ includes all the graduates around the world. We did it. We are graduating. Some of us are graduating college and some of us are graduating high school but all of us are equally confused and shocked at the state of the world. We are graduating amid a pandemic (like the college\real world pressure wasn’t enough). We are all stuck at home and our holiday plans post the grand graduation ceremony remain stuck with us and have transformed into post-Corona plans. We, the class of 2020, were already confused like every graduating class about what’s next on the menu and somehow a pandemic stole the thunder of it all by questioning the medical facilities, life and death and in some cases leadership. Unlike every other person, we find ourselves asking a question- is this a good time or a bad time to graduate- and much like everyone else we have no answers.
I realise that while procrastinating and pulling all-nighters we all must’ve thought about that moment when we’ll get our degrees and certificates and we’ll wear the cap and gown and say goodbye to our beloved-and sometimes horrid- alma matter and begin the next part of our lives and we all knew that the day would be bright and a person would give us a speech which we may or may not listen to but none of us had the slightest idea that we’d be graduating in front of our laptops with make-shift pointy caps and zoom screenshots would be the tell-tale of our life long memories.
I think again and realise that we should make the best out of this situation. We might not stand up on the stage and get our degrees, we might not see an array of pointy hats and yell in chorus and think how these voices, the very voices of the class of 2020 will be etched to our schools for eternity but on the Brightside, we are not going to suffer at the hands of yet another pretentious commencement address.
Graduating at home has benefits, you can use zoom filters and graduate on a beach in Hawaii or perhaps in front of other magical places and you can choose your commencement speaker. It can even be your favourite celebrity. So, here’s a list of all the commencements which I listened to on YouTube without falling asleep and felt hopeful about the times which come ahead of us.
1. MINDY KALING, DARTMOUTH, CLASS OF 2018
I remember this speech because it blew up on my Instagram feed and is perhaps, one of the best pick-me-up speeches you need to listen to. Funny, witty and most importantly you won’t fall asleep during this speech. She talks about her own experience at Dartmouth and in the real world. Its everything and more. She talks about completing the checklists which we are all writing for ourselves and how its important to not complete some. Also, I think that the people she hired to laugh in the speech weren’t required (a reference you would get, only if you watch the speech). Oh, and if Elle Woods from Legally Blonde were to give a speech at commencement it would be this.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself.”
2. MINDY KALING, HARVARD, CLASS OF 2014
If you’ve been binge-watching never have I ever on Netflix, you might as well binge-watch Mindy Kaling commencement speeches. And no, this list is not compiled with Mindy Kaling but this speech was too special to miss out on. She speaks to the class of 2014 with the signature Mindy Kaling charm and if you are a law school graduate you need to listen to this one. She rises to power again by claiming her Elle Woods moment and the conversation follows with asparagus as the subject. Also, there’s a bunch of lawyer jokes and amazing movie references in there to cheer you up.
“Be the kind of people who advise celebrities and not the other way around.”
3. LISA KUDROW, VASSAR, CLASS OF 2010
Guys, Phoebe attended Vassar and she spoke at the commencement for the class of 2010. If you are a fellow “FRIENDS” fan, you need to listen to this not because its Phoebe speaking but because it is one of the most inspiring speeches I have listened to. Kudrow talks about her career and the perks and cautions of immediate success and the failures that will ensue in the way of life. She talks about self-doubt and the voices in one’s head which are followed by many stories about her experiences on how she forged a path for herself and managed to land up with Phoebe, the character which is still relevant after 16 years of its last appearance. As the speech comes to an end, she talks about how she got fired from a prime time T.V. show and how it became one of the main reasons she ended up joining the cast of FRIENDS. This speech will make you laugh and embrace your failures. Oh, and it might end up motivating you as well.
“So, THANK GOD, I got FIRED.”
4. SHERYL SANDBERG, HARVARD, CLASS OF 2014
The COO of Facebook and alumna at Harvard speaks to the class of 2014 and I find her commencement address to be a walk in the reality which we, the graduates, will live in. She talks about the harsh realities and how telling a lie to a close friend isn’t all that moral a job. She looks back at her career and we all realize that it turned out nothing as she had planned for herself and how speaking the truth to herself, often difficult, helped her pave her way for where she stands now. Surprisingly, Sandberg, who is now the first female member in the board of directors at Facebook didn’t even have internet at the time when she was graduating. She talks about racism and sexism, which I find more than relevant with the on-going events in the world. This speech is the wakeup call you’ve been looking for and there’s the joke about Mark Zuckerberg not having his degree.
“Your career is not a ladder, it’s a jungle gym.”
5. BEYONCE, CLASS OF 2020
The queen has spoken and I think we all needed to hear this one because it accounts the world as we’ve seen it in the past few days. This one is one of the most recent commencement speeches and the chances are that you’ve probably already seen this one on your Instagram feeds. She talks about her experiences and how she built her legacy that we see it today. She cheers the class of 2020 and asks us to value respect, respect for ourselves and for the community we live in and nothing else. Not the way we look or speak or the colour of our skin. This video is a reminder of why Beyoncé is the reigning queen and why you should self-anoint yourself to be one too. Watch this one and realize the importance of being human.
“if you are a part of the group that has been called ‘others’ and not given a stage, then build your own stage.”
6. MICHELLE OBAMA, CLASS OF 2020
The world is tackling, what seems like an unprecedented storm amid a pandemic and Michelle Obama’s commencement address feels like a warm hug which we all need. These are uncertain times and we probably want everything to go back to how it was before, she tells us this recalling the uncertain moments of her life where she felt the same as she and all of us feel today. Share your voice and speak up is what she wants for the class of 2020. In the light of recent events, she asks us to protest peacefully and successfully reminds us how anger is a tool but so is hope, compassion, and drive. Obama might not be the first lady of the free world anymore but she will forever be a symbol of inspiration.
“It does not work if you stay silent.”
7. MARK ZUCKERBERG, HARVARD, CLASS OF 2017
While many of us know that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook is a Harvard dropout, a lot of us don’t know that while reading the comments on the YouTube video of his commencement speech for Harvard class of 2017 I found one which stated that the address “blackmailed him to be successful.” Therefore, if you want to blackmail yourself to be successful, listen to this one and you might end up learning more. This commencement address is wonderful and inspiring with all the snide references made about “THE SOCIAL NETWORK”, and how Zuckerberg found his purpose and wishes for the world to find a purpose that is bigger than themselves. He talks about building and cultivating relationships and tells the heart-warming story of how he met his wife Pricilla. There is a conversation about how important the freedom to fail is to achieve success and how the modern world with all of its problems will find success only if we connect and contribute to one another’s success.
"Ideas don't come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started."
8. BARACK OBAMA, CLASS OF 2020
Mr president knows it all, as he urges the class of 2020 to be proud of this day which is the culmination of all these years. He states the blatant truth that while graduation day for any class might be intimidating, under these circumstances, it is downright scary. He reminisces on all the situations that the world is facing and urges them to simply not accept what is not right. He talks about how this time is a wake-up call which brings upon a lot of opportunities and states that the old normal wasn’t enough. The recent cases of prejudice against the black and the misuse of police power have urged him to ask the people to support peaceful protests and vote for power. He makes a case to use social media correctly and to raise your voices, whenever, dealing with injustice.
“These times are the reminder that we can't take things for granted, we MUST work for everything.”
9. ANDY SAMBERG, HARVARD, CLASS OF 2012
If you love Andy Samberg, watch this to love him even more. With one of the most hilarious commencement addresses ever, he impresses everyone and anyone. He states that he didn’t even apply to Harvard because he knew he wouldn’t get in, implying that he rejected Harvard first. He sings wonderfully, does impressions as Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Wahlberg, and Nicholas Cage and is very surprised when he realises that he will not be receiving a doctorate in return of the speech. Mostly, through all the laughter he ends up inspiring us all to be better and to do what might be best for us. This goofy speech is all we need for a good day ahead.
"Whatever it is you try, make sure it's what you really want to do, because the only person who knows what that is, is you."
10. KRISTEN BELL, USC, CLASS OF 2019
Bell addresses the class of 2019 at USC School of dramatic arts and whilst keeping the “Frozen” jokes at bay, she talks about the importance of being nice and how niceness will always repay when we need it. She talks about her career and makes several, if not many, jokes at the expense of Dax Shephard. While she states that she might not know the ensured path of success, she does know the road to happiness, which in her case was her group of friends. She talks about how love and support are the only things that might lead to happiness and urges us to listen and learn. Watch this commencement address for the laughs and get motivated in the way.
"When you listen as fiercely as you want to be heard, you'll win, everytime."
11. BTS, CLASS OF 2020
The world is going crazy over this amazing K-pop band and the obsession isn’t that hard to understand once you look at this heart-warming commencement video for the class of 2020. Each member of the group talks about their respective experiences with graduation and life and their words support us all. These words by the members of BTS prove that the amount of distance doesn’t matter anymore and the amount of love and respect is what matters. Individually, they address the class of 2020 and spread togetherness in these testing times. Also, they are adorable.
"Wherever you are, you will be leaving one world and will soar into another."
12. THE SIMPSONS, CLASS OF 2020
You cannot ignore the Simpsons, I mean, weren’t they the ones who predicted it all. So, to end this list on a happy note, take a look at their video which sums it all- the plight of the times, the good that has come out of it, and the future that will unfold as we step into a new world, literally. Simpsons, much-like everyone else, struggle to say something inspiring, and the words are all said in a traditional Simpsons way.
"Well, the job is to be inspirational and there are plenty of good things to look forward to."
YOU DID IT. CONGRATULATIONS!