Colleges and universities attract some of the nation’s best speakers to address their graduates each year. While often breaking into unavoidable cliches, these speakers each approach the long-held tradition of the commencement address from an angle unique to themselves. From Jane Lynch’s brash humor, to Sonia Sotomayor’s uplifting life story, to a congratulations from the man behind SpongeBob SquarePants, here are this year’s high-profile commencement speakers.
Steve Carrell, Princeton University
Carrell, who plays Michael Scott in The Office, has been called America’s funniest man and does not disappoint here. Carrell warns against the Internet, texting, tweeting, and Facebook (as well as lol, tmi, and lmfao) taking over our social interactions and instructs graduates to make eye contact with the people next to them. His advice: “Get a dog, because cats are lame,” “Only use a ‘that’s what she said’ joke if you absolutely cannot resist,” and “Do something kind, make somebody laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Jane Lynch, Smith College
The popular Glee actress and comedian shows off her notoriously brash humor in a hilarious yet meaningful talk at her wife’s alma mater, the prestigious all-women’s Smith College. From her days as a humble undergraduate at Illinois State in the aptly-named “Normal” Illinois, Lynch has risen to fame by following a “Yes, and” philosophy of pursuing her any and every ambition.
Andy Samberg, Harvard University
In this entertaining talk, the energetic Saturday Night Live star joins the ranks of comedians Ali G and Will Ferrell in addressing Harvard’s graduates on Class Day. Feeling out of place but honored to speak at Harvard, he sarcastically remarks, “Late night television led me straight here.” His advice for graduates? “Step one: Cut a hole in a box…”
Ira Glass, Goucher College
Witty as ever, the award-winning NPR personality and writer and host of This American Life talks about his own confusion as a recent college graduate years ago. Reassuring graduates, Glass reveals that he lived below the poverty line as a journalist for most of his life before finally hitting it big.
Adam Savage, Sarah Lawrence College
Writer and host of MythBusters and a college dropout himself, Savage shares his own self-consciousness about not graduating. An actor gone popular scientist, Savage ultimately defends his background as untrained, unskilled polymath as contributing to the “big picture” and creative energies that inspired MythBusters.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, New York University
“This is awesome,” begins the outrageously accomplished Supreme Court Justice. Sotomayor made it from a public housing project in the Bronx to Princeton University and Yale Law School and ultimately became the third female and first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. She urges graduates to take up five emotions by which she has led her own life: humility, excitement, challenge, gratitude, and engagement.
SpongeBob SquarePants, University of Vermont
A live dialogue and congratulatory song about college between the men who do the voices of your favorite cartoon characters, SpongeBob and Patrick. Possibly the best commencement address ever.
Brian Williams, George Washington University
Anchor of NBC Nightly News and GW dropout, Williams describes his success despite his own meager academic record. He eloquently shares inspiring anecdotes from his life and career in his characteristic newsy persona.
Aaron Sorkin, Syracuse University
This Academy and Emmy award winning American screenwriter, producer, and playwright’s works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, and Moneyball. A Syracuse grad himself, Sorkin admits his former cocaine addiction and shares his success after going sober.