The end of school is near, and it's time for that springtime tradition of long-winded uplifting graduation speeches and heartfelt off-key renditions of the Star Spangled Banner. At the university level, celebrities don robes and dole out kernels of wisdom to fresh-faced graduates. At high schools around the world, eager valedictorians wax poetic about the future while fidgety seniors toss beach balls around. Even for the very youngest students, graduation ceremonies are made into special occasions and flowery speeches are brought forth.
I promise you won't have to sit through any yawn-inducing hour-long dispatches. Instead, I've got the most inspirational moments and the most ridiculous mishaps during commencement ceremonies that I could find. Enjoy, despite the shaky cameras and poor audio that seem to be the hallmark of all graduation speech videos!
Video Playlist: Graduation Speeches
Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.
- Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (15:05)
Even more poignant now: college dropout Steve Jobs shares powerful personal stories to encourage students to see challenges as opportunities.
- Dear Graduates - A Message From Kid President (04:14)
Kid President always knows how to give a rousing inspirational speech -- this new one that encourages graduates to be awesome is no exception!
- Graduation Falling and Tripping Compilation (01:03)
It's surprisingly common to wipe out on that most momentous walk -- and be caught on tape doing it. No one is spared in this compilation... ouch!
- Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling (09:27)
This gutsy girl takes the chance to rail against drill-and-kill and dares to ask for a better education system. Her video and speech went viral -- you can read her blog with a transcript.
- Kindergarten Graduation Song (01:38)
Ridiculously cute group of kindergarteners sing about how ready they are to go to first grade, to the tune of "Love and Marriage."
- Ellen at Tulane Commencement 2009 (17:55)
Ellen brings her particular brand of humor and wit -- and of course, her dance moves -- to Tulane University, for the class that entered in 2005, the "Katrina Class."
- Winston Churchill - Address To Harrow School (04:17)
Though there's no video of this one, it's worth a listen -- Winston Churchill's speech on Nov. 29th, 1941 is more like a battle cry: "Never give in!"
- Sharyland High School 2011 Graduation Flash Mob (01:54)
Nothing beats a good 'ole flash mob -- and what better place to orchestrate one than your high school graduation? Over 700 students in this one!
- Phenomenal 6th Grade Graduation Speech - Ryan Balaoing 2010 (03:54)
This plucky elementary school student gives a rousing and articulate speech, and hardly even peeks at his cue cards.
- Randy Pausch Inspires Graduates (06:33)
A brief and powerful speech by professor Randy Pausch to his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, in 2008. Sadly, he passed away two months later.
- Funny Grad Speech with Juggling Tricks! (03:20)
Not sure what to say in your valedictorian speech? Add juggling for an instant crowd-pleaser!
Making Sure Every Student Has a Chance to Graduate
Pranks and flash mobs aside, teachers are the ones charged with the responsibility for everything that leads up to that much-lauded walk to the podium. Here are some groups that are working to keep kids in school.
- America's Promise Alliance's Dropout Prevention Campaign
- Everyone Graduates Center
- National Dropout Prevention Network
If you want more speeches, here's a great list from Maria Popova of BrainPickings: "The Greatest Commencement Addresses of All Time." Happy spring, and congratulations to everyone who is walking, or has helped a student to walk, in a graduation!
Editor's Note: This post originally published on April 25th, 2012.