Commencement Speeches: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

A commencement speech is given to graduating students, typically by a notable figure, at the ceremony marking their graduation from a school, college or university. It is usually an inspirational and uplifting address that touches on life lessons and encourages graduates to look ahead to the future. The speaker usually offers wisdom and advice, discussing courage, hard work, perseverance, and success. The speaker may also offer heartfelt encouragement to the graduates and their families.

A commencement speech is an important milestone in a student’s life. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past years spent at school and prepare for future endeavors.

In the United States, an estimated 3.2 million commencement ceremonies occur yearly, most occurring at colleges and universities. It is one of the most popular ceremonies of a student’s academic career, as it marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

An example of 18 influential commencement speeches held in the United States, along with their significance and impact on the students who attended are listed below:

  1. Steve Jobs at Stanford University (2005): Steve Jobs’ speech was important to students as it emphasized the importance of following one’s passion, embracing failure, and taking risks. His personal stories resonated with graduates, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and create a meaningful impact.
  2. J.K. Rowling at Harvard University (2008): J.K. Rowling’s speech held great significance for students as she shared her own experiences of failure and perseverance. Her message of embracing imagination, empathy, and the power of resilience struck a chord with graduates, encouraging them to overcome challenges and find purpose in their lives. #jkrowling
  3. Oprah Winfrey at Stanford University (2008): Oprah Winfrey’s speech was important to students as she emphasized the importance of finding one’s purpose and making a difference in the world. Her journey from adversity to success resonated deeply, inspiring graduates to embrace their own unique path and create positive change. #oprahwinfrey
  4. Barack Obama at Howard University (2016): Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Howard University was significant to students, particularly from the African American community. His address highlighted the challenges faced by minority communities and urged graduates to use their education to contribute to society and bring about social progress. #barackobama
  5. Sheryl Sandberg at Harvard University (2014): Sheryl Sandberg’s speech resonated with students, especially women in the audience, as she addressed issues of gender equality, leadership, and career advancement. Her message of empowerment and breaking down barriers in the workplace inspired graduates to pursue their ambitions and overcome gender biases. #sherylsandberg
  6. Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University (2015): Michelle Obama’s speech resonated with students, particularly those from marginalized communities, as she shared her own experiences and addressed the challenges faced by African Americans. Her message of resilience, self-worth, and embracing one’s identity offered empowerment and motivation to graduates.
  7. Maya Angelou at Spelman College (1982): Maya Angelou’s speech was important to students, particularly women of color, as she emphasized the power of education, self-confidence, and resilience. Her empowering words encouraged graduates to overcome adversity and make a difference in their communities.
  8. Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the University of California, Berkeley of California, Berkeley (2006): Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s speech resonated with students, particularly those interested in law and social justice. Her address focused on the importance of equality, the rule of law, and the pursuit of justice, inspiring graduates to fight for equal rights and make a difference in society.
  9. Madeleine Albright at Mount Holyoke College (1997): Madeleine Albright’s speech held significance for students, especially women pursuing careers in politics and diplomacy. Her address emphasized the importance of education, global engagement, and the role of women in shaping the world’s future.
  10. Denzel Washington at the University of Pennsylvania (2011): Denzel Washington’s speech resonated with students as he shared personal anecdotes and emphasized the significance of hard work, perseverance, and maintaining a strong work ethic. His words inspired graduates to pursue excellence and remain committed to their goals. #denzelwashington
  11. Toni Morrison at Barnard College (1979): Toni Morrison’s speech was important to students, particularly women, as she emphasized the power of literature, storytelling, and the role of women in shaping society. Her address encouraged graduates to use their voices and narratives to challenge societal norms and create positive change.
  12. Michelle Obama at The City College of New York (2016): Michelle Obama’s speech resonated with students as she addressed race, inequality, and education issues. Her address emphasized the significance of diversity, empathy, and the power of education in shaping a better future. Her words encouraged graduates to make a positive impact in their communities. #michelleobama
  13. Tim Cook at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2017): Tim Cook’s speech held significance for students interested in technology and business. His address focused on the importance of privacy, ethics, and the responsibilities of technology companies. His words inspired graduates to use technology as a force for good and prioritize societal well-being. #timcook

These commencement speeches had a lasting impact on the students who attended. They offered wisdom, inspiration, and guidance, encouraging graduates to pursue their passions, embrace challenges, make a positive impact, and contribute to a better world.

Having seen the commencement addresses listed above, however, my favorites were notable ones that didn’t get as much attention as those listed above but were equally important because of the wisdom imparted to the students (and families) in attendance. Here are my top 5:

  1. Shonda Rhimes, the acclaimed television producer, screenwriter, and creator of hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” delivered a powerful and memorable commencement speech at Dartmouth College in 2014. Her address captivated the audience with its authenticity, wit, and insightful messages. During her speech, Rhimes shared her personal journey and reflected on the importance of embracing fear and pursuing one’s passions. She candidly spoke about her own struggles with self-doubt and the transformative moment when she decided to say “yes” to opportunities that scared her. Rhimes emphasized the significance of stepping outside one’s comfort zone and taking risks, as those are often the moments that lead to personal growth and success. One of the most resonant themes of Rhimes’ speech was her discussion of the value of hard work. She stressed that talent alone is not enough; it is the effort, discipline, and persistence that truly make a difference. Rhimes highlighted the need to embrace the challenges and setbacks that come along the way, as they provide valuable learning experiences and contribute to the overall journey of self-discovery and achievement. #shondarhimes
  2. Viola Davis the renowned American actress and advocate, delivered a powerful commencement speech at Barnard College in 2019. Her address captivated the audience with its authenticity, vulnerability, and empowering messages. During her speech, Davis shared her personal journey and reflected on the challenges she faced as a woman of color in the entertainment industry. She candidly discussed the intersectionality of gender and race, shedding light on the existing systemic barriers and inequalities. Davis emphasized the importance of embracing one’s identity and using it as a source of strength and empowerment. One of the central themes of Davis’ speech was the power of embracing imperfection and vulnerability. She encouraged the graduates to shed the pressure of perfectionism and to be unapologetically authentic in their lives. Davis shared her own experiences of self-doubt and the liberating realization that true strength lies in acknowledging and embracing vulnerability. Davis also spoke passionately about advocating for equal representation and inclusion. She underscored the importance of breaking down barriers and creating spaces where all voices are heard and valued. Davis urged the graduates to use their education and privilege to pave the way for others and to fight against injustice. #violadavis
  3. Admiral William H. McRaven, a highly decorated retired Navy SEAL and former U.S. Special Operations Command commander delivered a memorable commencement address at the The University of Texas at Austin in 2014. His “Make Your Bed” speech resonated with the audience and has since gained widespread recognition for its profound messages of resilience, perseverance, and the power of small actions. Admiral McRaven began his address by recounting his experiences during Navy SEAL training, specifically highlighting the first task of the day—making your bed. He emphasized the importance of this seemingly mundane task as a symbol of discipline, attention to detail, and the ability to accomplish the little things in life. He stressed that even in the face of adversity, starting the day with a completed task sets the tone for productivity and a sense of achievement. Throughout his speech, Admiral McRaven shared various anecdotes and lessons he learned during his military career. He recounted stories of the SEALs’ demanding training and the importance of teamwork, highlighting the idea that no one achieves greatness alone. He urged the graduates to embrace the power of collaboration, emphasizing that their success would be tied to their ability to work together with others.
  4. Fred Rogers, the beloved television personality known for his iconic show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” delivered a heartwarming and inspirational commencement speech at Dartmouth College in 2002. His address captivated the audience with its warmth, kindness, and timeless messages of empathy and compassion. During his speech, Fred Rogers reflected on the importance of human connection and the power of love in positively impacting the world. He encouraged the graduates to embrace kindness and to approach every interaction with empathy and understanding. One of the central themes of Rogers’ speech was the value of taking time for reflection and self-care. He emphasized the importance of slowing down, being present in the moment, and cultivating inner peace. Rogers believed that by taking care of oneself, individuals can better care for others and contribute to a more compassionate society. Rogers also touched upon the significance of learning from mistakes and embracing vulnerability. He encouraged the graduates to accept their imperfections and to view them as opportunities for growth and learning. His message of self-acceptance and self-compassion resonated deeply with the audience, inspiring them to approach life with grace and understanding.
  5. Stephen Colbert, the celebrated comedian, writer, and television host, delivered a memorable commencement speech at Knox College in 2006. Known for his satirical persona on “The Colbert Report,” Colbert’s address at Knox College showcased his wit, humor, and thought-provoking insights. During his speech, Colbert entertained the audience with his trademark comedic style while imparting wisdom. He seamlessly blended humor with deeper reflections on life, purpose, and embracing the unknown. Colbert encouraged the graduates to embrace uncertainty and take risks, reminding them that the path to success is rarely straight and predictable. One of the central themes of Colbert’s address was the importance of finding one’s passion and pursuing it wholeheartedly. He encouraged the graduates to follow their dreams, even if it meant encountering setbacks or challenges. #stephencolbert
  6. Need some inspiration or want to hear some positive messages of hope? One of the best places to catch a great commencement address is on C-SPAN. You can see some of the speeches that have taken place here.

And for all of my favorite commencement speeches and TED talks, you can find them (and links to several of the speeches listed above on my blog at

Life is short, we have work to do – let’s get to it!


My E-Bike ‘Tude Went Kaput

Happy Friday! As we ride into the weekend, I found (and love) this post from Tim Doyle on LinkedIN (it’s here, you should read it). I’ve always been a firm believer in the fact that there are only 3 things you need to survive in this world (and yes, you can disagree with me but here they are: – a warm blanket, a bike, and a library card).

My mom had vascular dementia, an ascending aortic aneurysm, and melanoma. She died in her sleep as a result of community-acquired pneumonia she acquired in the nursing home where she was. The decision to go into assisted living (hers) was difficult for all of us.

Probably one of the worst parts of it was giving up her tricycle (which she loved and rode for the last time the week before we moved). She was 84 at the time. I would ride alongside her in my Trek Bicycle 2100 ( a nice light carbon fiber thingy – not at all like her heavy red trike which I struggled to ride because it was so heavy). It was much older than the one pictured above (and red), but it had the same basket, handles, and seat.

Here’s my point: I rode a Trek e-bike (“pedal assist”) a few years ago at their shop in Rockville MD. At the time I had a little ‘tude about e-bikes as a whole and knew that they were getting some challenges from the bikers who ride on the trails in DC. My ‘tude totally went kaput on the day I took the Trek e-bike out for a spin. AND – seeing how happy my mom looked whenever I rode alongside her, I’m wondering about how Medicare can cover a wheelchair or a scooter but then only give you a 30% tax credit on an e-bike.

Bilateral movement – bikes, walking, swimming is a phenomenal activity and great for your #health. I know electric bikes are great for the environment, but I wish companies like Trek BicycleSpecialized Bicycle ComponentsRad Power BikesAventonSchwinn Fitness and Cannondale would think a little more about accommodating all of us and that yes, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Medicare and other companies would cover the cost at 100%.

E-bikes are great for so many reasons (environment, health, social) and it’s a shame that they aren’t covered under insurance like other medical equipment.

What do you think?

Do you think electric bikes should be covered under insurance? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

It’s Snowing!

Snow is here. / S.A.Leys Photo

It’s 4:30; it’s been snowing for a few hours now. The quietude of the outdoors is afoot as the snowflakes are very small. I remember years ago when we used to ski at Killington, around this time we’d be in the lodge at the top of the mountain getting ready for the last run down. It was cool to sit there and have a hot chocolate while we waited for everyone else to clear out. Then we’d head out, put our skis back on and stand at the top of the trail for a bit taking in the beauty of it all, the snow in the pines, the crisp mountain air, wood stove smoke off in the distance, – Vermont in the winter. And then we’d ski down – new snow after a great day of skiing.

At the bottom of the trail, once our run was complete, we’d head to the car where there would be a small cooler with NY Sharp cheddar cheese, Triscuits, and sodas (Okay, insert favorite beverage here ; )) to enjoy on the ride home as we’d head through Woodstock and then back to 89 and Grantham. I miss those days. Killington is 7:45 and 470 miles from here, so I will stay here tucked in under warm blankets. All this to say – batten down the hatches kids, it’s headed towards the Northeast. And yes, my weather app is telling me Killington is expecting 12″ – 18″.

The View From “Up There”

“I want to go up there”, my 95 y/o friend would tell me, as we were in the car driving during the Fall when all of the leaves were changing color. “Where?” I would ask.

“Up there” she would say again. pointing to the mountains (okay – hills) that were usually right in front of us as we would drive. Drive to a haircut appointment, drive to pick up groceries, or to go out for lunch. “It must be really beautiful in the Fall” she would say.

She told me her son had driven her to top of these hills several months ago. “You could see everything,” she said. But it wasn’t during the Fall and as the leaves were now changing colors, I’m sure she was correct when she said it would be colorful.

So this turned into a mission for me. To find the road that went to the top of the mountains that overlooked our small town of Frederick, MD. So that when the Fall came and the foliage was at its peak, then maybe instead of celebrating her birthday at a noisy restaurant, we could “grab some sandwiches” and have a picnic.

It was a wonderful idea if only I could find the road to the top.

It would have been so great if you could just point your phone to the view and say “Hey Siri, how do I get to the top of those mountains so I can check out the view?” But – in the world of Siri, you have to know what you’re talking about and maybe it’s not a bad thing to actually use that “old skill” of actually looking at a map, or in this case, a trail guide.

I told a few of my other friends about this endeavor I was on to find the road that led to the place that overlooked our town. Sure enough, one day I was driving with another friend who said “I think I know the road the goes up there”. For the next hour we drove through a few different neighborhoods and then finally found the road that led us to Gambrill State Park.

Ever been there? No? You should go.

As you can tell by the photo above, we missed the foliage by about a week and a half. But next year – next year, we’ll be the group of folks hanging out at the overlook having a picnic.

My Dream Acura

Acura Integra Teaser Sketch (From

Acura is bringing back (FINALLY!) the Integra – yay!

True story: Many years ago I was on my way back from NY (in my Toyota Camry) and was sideswiped by a car while on 95 north of New Haven. The driver of the other car pulled over to wait for me but because I was trapped against a barrier in the left lane, and couldn’t cross traffic, they ended up leaving. Kate my cat was in her carrier next to me – but we were both pretty shaken up by what happened.

We ended up stopping at friends to check everything out before heading home. The car was severely damaged and I ended up needing a new one. Enter my Dad who was always fun to shop for cars with. – I couldn’t figure out what kind of car I wanted so we test drove everything (yes, including the cool black jeep with the tan leather side windows that zip). Dad said “this isn’t the most professional-looking car for you to drive”. I said, “I know but isn’t it fun???”. Needless to say, we narrowed my choice down to a VW Jetta and then went to test drive an Acura Integra. – back when Acura of Newport was still open. We decided to test drive a very pretty red one (the kind that when you drive a smidge too fast your chance of getting pulled over is greater because of the color).

So off we went for our test drive – down to the rotary, then towards the Newport navy base…Washington street, past the yacht club… down Thames st….and then, yes, around the Ocean Drive. As we were about as far out around Ocean Drive as you can go, Dad said “umm ya think maybe we should take the car back now?” (I think when we left the lot it had 6 miles on it). I told him “I love this car; I have to have this car!!” (luckily I had a great job which had discounted auto prices as part of the benefits – in healthcare – what???).

We drove the car back to the dealership and then I really looked at the red color and thought ‘probably not a good idea to get red – so ended up going with a darker blue color, fathom blue pearl with a beautiful camel interior.

As it was a standard, it was so much fun to drive – especially on the parkways in NY. The Jetta held the road just a little bit better than the #Acura did when turning corners. But the Integra came with everything standard: sunroof, electric everything and my personal favorite when being called into the ER to speak with a patient at 2:00am.. heated seats!

Since test driving that Acura #Integra years ago, I’ve purchased several of them: the Integra, RSX, TSX and RDX and most recently, my bellanova pearl #ILX (pictured below) with my Trek 2100 on the back somewhere along 95 in North Carolina.

Acura Is Also About Service

And yes, the other lesson I’ve learned from owning many Acuras is that the car that you drive is also about the service, quality and integrity of the dealerships you decide to visit.

I loved the service I received from Acura of Newport and was sad when they closed. After relocating to the Washington DC Metro area, I subsequently purchased all of my Acuras from Rosenthal Acura in Gaithersburg MD. Their service team was as excellent as was their sales team which was phenomenal as the dealership supports you from the time you enter the dealership throughout the time you own it.

Bringing back the Integra is long overdue. My hope is that Acura has designed the new Integra in a manner that supports the brand of a great company. I also hope there’s a hybrid / electric version.

If you’re considering an Acura in your future, you should click here to find the dealership closest to you.