Sybil Low by Sybil Low
Class of 2023 Enters a Challenging World: Insights from Graduation Speeches Across the US

Just recently The Guardian presented a compilation of the year’s most inspiring graduation speeches. High-profile speakers from various sectors, including journalism, Hollywood, and politics, offered wisdom to the graduating class of 2023, acknowledging the unique circumstances they face.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The class of 2023 is entering a world facing multiple crises, including threats to democracy, climate change, entrenched racism, and a global pandemic.
  • Despite these challenges, speakers shared uplifting messages and advice, underlining the importance of resilience, empathy, and courage.
  • The speeches underscored the importance of maintaining personal identity, embracing adversity, fostering a sense of community, and working towards a fairer and more sustainable future.

Graduating Into Unprecedented Times

Despite the continuation of the graduation tradition that spans over a century, speakers agree that this year is atypical. The environment the class of 2023 finds itself entering presents significant challenges, from threats to democracy and climate change to entrenched racism and the ongoing global pandemic. “To the graduating class of 2023, I say three words: you poor bastards,” noted actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, capturing the tough realities the new graduates face.

The Wisdom of Experience

The speakers shared the wisdom gained from their experiences and provided encouragement and advice to navigate these challenging times. Patton Oswalt praised the younger generation’s determination to reject societal pitfalls, including apathy and ignorance towards mental health issues. He affirmed, “Everything that we let calcify, you have kicked against and demolished.”

Similarly, author Isabel Wilkerson urged the new graduates to face and not ignore the problems of their time. She drew a vivid analogy, comparing America to an old house with long-ignored issues that can no longer be neglected. She emphasized, “We are heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it.”

Calls to Action

Many speeches contained direct calls to action. Actor Tom Hanks emphasized the importance of personal responsibility in shaping society, stating, “When you respect the law and the rights of all… When you make good on your victories and learn from your losses because both are the results of proud and noble efforts, if you don’t, who will?” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also encouraged the graduates to use the lessons learned during hard times to face future challenges, while Sanna Marin, Finnish Prime Minister, underlined the importance of defending the values of democracy and equality in an increasingly complex world.

The Power of the Individual

The speeches also emphasized the power of the individual in creating change. Journalist and author Nikole Hannah-Jones encouraged students to hold onto their values and identity, even in spaces where they may feel they don’t belong. Oprah Winfrey, too, underscored the power of the individual to change the world, starting with being kind to at least one person every day.

These speeches served to inspire, advise, and prepare the class of 2023 to face an uncertain world, encouraging them to step forward with courage, empathy, and resolve.

The Impact of Masterful Graduation Speeches

Amidst the turmoil and uncertainty that characterizes the world today, the power of a well-delivered speech cannot be overstated. These masterful graduation speeches serve not only as beacons of hope but also as blueprints guiding graduates as they navigate their journey into the future. They inspire, motivate, and instill a sense of purpose in the listeners, reinforcing the idea that every individual has a significant role to play in shaping the world of tomorrow.

In times filled with change and uncertainty, a well-crafted speech carries a profound impact. Each year, graduation speeches stand as lighthouses amidst turbulence, shining a light on the path ahead for the new graduates. Here are some of the most memorable graduation speeches:

  1. Shonda Rhimes, screenwriter, Dartmouth College: “You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.”
  2. Malala Yousafzai, human rights advocate, University of Pennsylvania: “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”
  3. Maya Angelou, author and poet, Wake Forest University: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  4. Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright, University of Pennsylvania: “Your stories are essential. Don’t believe me? … In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system.”
  5. Michelle Obama, former First Lady, Oberlin College: “The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.

These words echo the undeniable significance of masterful graduation speeches, reminding us of the power of words to inspire action, induce change, and ultimately shape our future.

Related articles:

A Student’s Tale OR How To Get Into Your Dream College

Academic Challenges in the U.S. Colleges: Major Findings from the 2023 Student Voice Survey

How Community Colleges are Filling Labor Gaps

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