Sarah’s Team Pick: The Best Graduation Speeches

Don’t you love this time of year? Mosquitos begin to hatch. The winter chill starts to sound nice after a few 90-degree days in a row. And of course, thousands of graduations take place across the country, and each and every one of them has a speech to go with it.

Most graduation speeches quote Robert Frost and say the word “future” a lot and point out that commencement means beginning, not ending, blah blah blah. But some of them are actually original and good! HuffPo has compiled a list of the best speeches this year, and they are definitely worth watching.

We already told you about Tom Hanks talking to Yale, but Amy Poehler wins, I think.

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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 127 articles for us.


  1. Hahaha, I was at my sis’ graduation today (Master’s degree) and the speaker did quote Robert Frost’s poem! Just the first paragraph. He also said that none of us would remember his speech in the future. Good speech he gave.

    (But the speaker at my grad didn’t quote Frost. If she did, I don’t remember.)

    I gotta remember to watch grad speeches. They’re as good and as interesting as TED presentations.

  2. I liked Ms. Poehler’s speech, but Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook was AWESOME! I feel like every woman should watch it.

  3. This is awesome. I didn’t know my love for Amy Poehler could grow any deeper or more filled with hilarity

  4. Yay! This was on Gawker/Jezebel/something last week and it made my love for Amy Poehler grow even more. I want her to be my best friend.

    Also, did you see the guy eat his eye booger in the clip? Also totally awesome. :/

  5. I love Amy Poehler. Witty, funny, intelligent and just one of the best female comediennes in years.

  6. i just can’t explain how much amy poehler means to me. or to any lady comics of my generation. like i dont know a single female comedian under the age of 30 who does not worship poehler. fey, too, obviously, but i think amy poehler needs just as much love because she is fantastic and a feminist and a badass and very probably a genius.

  7. I really like Amy Poehler, but I honestly didn’t think that speech was so great. Rachel Maddow’s to Smith (last year?) was rather good, I thought. I don’t remember who spoke at mine or what he said.

  8. This really hit me: “When you feel scared, hold someone’s hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing.”

    • Agreed. This is my new favorite quote… everything about it, and Amy P.’s speech, is perfect.

    • Also, this: “Continue to share your heart with people, even if it’s been broken. Don’t treat your heart like an action figure, wrapped in plastic and never used. And don’t try to give me that nerd argument that your heart is a Batman with a limited edition silver batarang and therefore if it stays in its original packing it increases in value.”

  9. Our grad speech was given by some top Criminologist that noone really knows…fantastic.
    England need to step the hell up and get Amy Poehler down to make everyone howl like this. The only noises from our audience was snoring!

    Check it –

  10. David Boies, the prop 8 lawyer, spoke at my graduation last weekend. The speech itself was beyond amazing but the most hilarious thing was the look on the faces of the board of trustees as he started championing gay rights.

    • At the graduation I helped at last weekend, the board of trustees awarded a commencement prize to a “student who best exemplifies the ideas/beliefs of the graduation speaker”. The student won the prize for campaigning for gay rights on a national level(yay!). The commencement speaker was a right-wing conservative political journalist who often speaks against gay rights. The look on his face when they read out why the student was getting the prize was priceless. Seeing the board of trustees giggling afterward at their way of protesting the choice of speaker was also fairly nice too.

  11. she is the greatest. i wanted to be there so badly but they kick all of the undergrads off campus before commencement.

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