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American singer-songwriter and 11-times Grammy Award Winner Taylor Swift delivered the commencement speech to the graduating students of New York University. Taylor was awarded an honorary doctorate degree wherein she spoke about embracing your struggles and owning your mistakes.

Taylor Swift’s 2022 New York University Commencement Speech Transcript:

Hi, I’m Taylor [Applause]

The last time I was in a stadium this size I was dancing in heels and wearing a glittery leotard this outfit is much more comfortable. I would like to say a huge thank you to NYU’s chairman of the board of trustees Bill Berkley and all the trustees and members of the board NYU’s President Andrew Hamilton, Provost Catherine Fleming, and the faculty and alumni here today who have made this day possible.

I feel so proud to share this day with my fellow honorees Susan Hockfield and Felix Matos
Rodriguez who humble me with the ways, they improve our world with their work as for me
I’m 90 percent sure the main reason I’m here is because I have a song called 22. And let me just say
I am elated to be here with you today as we celebrate and graduate from New York University’s class of 2022.

Not a single one of us here today has done it alone we are each a patchwork quilt of those who have loved us those who have believed in our futures those who showed us empathy and kindness
or told us the truth even when it wasn’t easy to hear those who told us we could do it when there was absolutely no proof of that someone read stories to you and taught you to dream and offered up some moral code of right and wrong for you to try and live by someone tried their best to explain every concept in this insanely complex world to the child that was you as you asked a bazillion questions like how does the moon work and why can we eat salad but not grass and maybe they didn’t do it perfectly no one ever can maybe they aren’t with us anymore in that case, I hope you’ll remember them today.

If they are in this stadium i hope you’ll find your own way to express your gratitude for all the
steps and missteps that have led us to this common destination.

I know that words are supposed to be my thing but I will never be able to find the words to thank my mom and dad, and my brother Austin for the sacrifices they made every day so I could go from
singing in coffee houses to standing up here with you all today because no words would ever be enough to all the incredible parents, family members, mentors, teachers, allies, friends, and loved ones here today who have supported these students in their pursuit of educational enrichment
let me say to you now welcome to new york it’s been waiting for you.

I’d like to thank NYU for making me technically on paper at least a doctor [Applause] not the type of doctor you would want around in case of an emergency unless your specific emergency was that
you desperately needed to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section or if your emergency was that you needed a person who can name over 50 breeds of cats in one minute. [Applause]

I never got to have a normal college experience per se. I went to public high school until 10th
grade and then finished my education doing homeschool work on the floors of airport terminals
then I went out on the road for a radio tour which sounds incredibly glamorous but in reality it consisted of rental car motels and my mom and I pretending to have loud mother-daughter fights with each other during boarding, so no one would want the empty seat between us on the southwest.

As a kid, I always thought I would go away to college imagining the posters I would hang on the wall of my freshman dorm. I even set the ending of my music video from my song love story at my fantasy imaginary college where I meet a male model reading a book on the grass and with one
single glance we realized we had been in love in our past lives which is exactly what you guys all
experienced at some point in the last four years right. [Applause]

But I really can’t complain about not having a normal college experience to you because you went to NYU during a global pandemic being essentially locked into your dorms and having to do classes over zoom. Everyone in college during normal times
stresses about test scores
but on top of that
you also had to pass like a thousand
kova tests
i imagine
the idea of a normal college experience
was all you wanted to
but in this case
you and i both learned that you don’t
always get all the things in the bag
that you selected from the menu
in the delivery surface that is life
you get what you get
and as
i would like to say to you
wholeheartedly you should be very proud
of what you’ve done with it
today
you leave new york university
and then go out into the world
searching what’s next and so will i

[Music]

so as a rule
i try not to give anyone
unsolicited advice
unless they ask for it
i’ll go into this more later
i guess i have been officially solicited
in this situation to impart
whatever wisdom i might have
to tell you things that have helped me
so far in my life
please bear in mind that i in no way
feel qualified to tell you what to do
you’ve worked
and struggled and sacrificed and studied
and dreamed
your way here to dare
and so
you know what you’re doing
you’ll do things differently than i did
them
and for different reasons so i won’t
tell you what to do because no one likes
that i will however
give you some life hacks i wish i knew
when i was starting out my dreams of a
career
and navigating life
love pressure
choices
shame
hope and friendship
the first of which is
life
can be heavy
especially if you try to carry it all at
once
part of growing up
and moving into new chapters of your
life
is about catch and release
what i mean by that is
knowing what things to keep
and what things to release
you can’t carry all things
all grudges
all updates on your ex
all
enviable promotions your school bully
got at the hedge fund his uncle started

decide
what is yours to hold
and let the rest go
oftentimes the good things in your life
are lighter anyway
so there’s more room for them
one toxic relationship
can outweigh so many wonderful simple
joys
you get to pick
what your life has time and room for
be discerning
secondly
learn to live
alongside
cringe
no matter
how hard you try to avoid being cringe
you will
look back on your life
and cringe retrospectively

cringe
is unavoidable over a lifetime
even the term cringe might someday be
deemed cringe
i promise you
you’re probably doing or wearing
something right now
that you will look back on later and
find revolting and hilarious
you can’t avoid it so don’t try to
for example
i had a phase where for the entirety of
2012
i dressed like a 1950s
housewife
but you know what i was having fun
trends and phases are fun
looking back and laughing is fun
and while we’re talking about things
that make us squirm but really shouldn’t
i’d like to say i’m a big
advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm
for things

it seems to me that there is a false
stigma
around eagerness
in our culture of unbothered
ambivalence
this outlook perpetuates the idea that
it’s not cool to want it
the people who don’t try are
fundamentally more chic than people who
do
and i wouldn’t know because i’ve been a
lot of things but i’ve never been an
expert on chic but i’m the one who’s up
here so you have to listen to me when i
say this
never
be ashamed
of trying
effortlessness
is a myth
the people who wanted it the least were
the ones i wanted to date and be friends
with
in high school
the people who want it the most
are the people i now hire to work for my
company

i write i started writing songs when i
was 12
and since then
it’s been the compass guiding my life
and in turn
my life guided my writing
everything i do
is just an extension of my writing
whether it’s directing videos or a short
film
creating the visuals for a tour
or standing on a stage performing
everything is connected
by my love of the craft
the thrill of working through ideas and
narrowing them down
and polishing it all up in the end
editing waking up in the middle of the
night throwing out the old idea because
you just thought of a new or better one
or a plot device that ties the whole
thing together
there’s a reason they call it a hook
sometimes a string of words
just
ensnares me and i can’t
focus on anything until it’s been
recorded or written down
as a songwriter i’ve never been able to
sit still or stay in one creative place
for too long
i’ve made and released 11 albums and in
the process i’ve switched genre from
country
to pop to alternative to folk
and this might sound like a very
songwriter-centric
line of discussion
but in a way
i really do think
we are all
writers
and most of us
write in a different voice for different
situations
you write
differently in your instagram stories
then you do your senior thesis
you send a different type of email to
your boss than you do your best friend
from home
we are all literary chameleons and i
think it’s fascinating
it’s just a continuation of the idea
that we are so many things all the time
and
i know it can be really overwhelming
figuring out who to be and when
who you are now
and how to act in order to get where you
want to go
i have some good news
it’s totally up to you
i have some terrifying news
it’s totally up to you
i said to you earlier that i don’t ever
offer advice
unless someone asked me for it and now
i’ll tell you why
as a person who started my very public
career
at the age of 15 it came with a price
and that price
was years
of unsolicited advice
being the youngest person in every room
for over a decade
meant
that i was constantly being issued
warnings
from older members of the music industry
media interviewers executives and this
advice
often presented itself
as thinly veiled warnings
see i was a teenager
at a time when our society was
absolutely obsessed with the idea
of having perfect
young female role models
it felt like every interview i did
included slight barbs by the interviewer
about me one day
running off the rails
and that meant a different thing
to every person who said it to me so
i became a young adult while being fed
the message
that if i didn’t make
any mistakes
all the children of america
would grow up to be perfect angels
however if i did slip up
the entire earth would fall off its axis
and it would be entirely my fault and i
would go to pop star jail
forever and ever
it was all centered around the idea
that mistakes
equal
failure
and ultimately
the loss
of any chance at a happy or rewarding
life
this
has not been my experience
my experience has been
that my mistakes
led to the best things in my life
and
being embarrassed when you mess up
is part of the human experience
getting back up
dusting yourself off
and seeing who still wants to hang out
with you afterward and laugh about it
that’s a gift
the times i was told no
or wasn’t included
wasn’t chosen didn’t win didn’t make the
cut
looking back it really feels like those
moments
were as important if not more crucial
than the moments i was told yes
not being invited
to the parties and sleepovers in my
hometown
made me feel hopelessly lonely
but because i felt alone
i would sit in my room and write the
songs that would get me
a ticket somewhere else
having label executives in nashville
tell me
that only 35 year old housewives
listened to country music
and there was no place for a 13 year old
on their roster
made me cry in the car on the way home
but then
i’d post my songs on my myspace
and yes myspace
and i would message with other teenagers
like me who loved country music but just
didn’t have anyone singing from their
perspective
having journalists write in-depth
oftentimes critical pieces about who
they perceive me to be
made me feel like i was living in some
weird simulation
but it also made me look inward
to learn about who i actually am
having the world treat my love life like
a spectator sport in which i lose every
single game
was not a great way to date in my teens
and twenties
but it taught me
to protect my private life fiercely
being publicly humiliated over and over
again at a young age was excruciatingly
painful
but it forced me
to devalue the ridiculous notion
of minute by minute
ever fluctuating social relevance and
likability
[Applause]

getting cancelled on the internet
and nearly losing my career
gave me an excellent knowledge of all
the types of wine
[Applause]
i know i sound
like a consummate optimist but i’m
really not
i lose perspective
all the time
sometimes
everything
just feels completely pointless
i know the pressure
of living your life through the lens of
perfectionism and i know that i’m
talking to a group of perfectionists
because you are here today
graduating from nyu
[Music]
[Applause]
so this might be hard for you to hear
in your life
you will inevitably
misspeak
trust the wrong person
under react
overreact hurt the people who didn’t
deserve it
overthink
not think at all
self-sabotage
create a reality where only your
experience exists
ruin perfectly good moments for yourself
and others deny any wrongdoing
not take the steps to make it right feel
very guilty
let the guilt eat at you hit rock bottom
finally address the pain you caused try
to do better next time rinse repeat

[Applause]

and i’m not going to lie
these mistakes will cause you to lose
things
i’m trying to tell you
that losing things
doesn’t just mean losing
a lot of the time
when we lose things
we gain things too
now you leave the structure and
framework
of school
and chart your own path
every choice you make leads to the next
choice which leads to the next and i
know it’s hard to know
which path to take
there will be times in life where you
need to stand up for yourself
times when the right thing is actually
to back down and apologize
times when the right thing is to fight
times when the right thing is to turn
and run
times to hold on with all you have
and times to let go with grace
sometimes the right thing to do is to
throw out the old schools of thought in
the name of progress and reform
sometimes the right thing to do is to
sit and listen to the wisdom of those
who have come before us
how will you know
what the right choice is in these
crucial moments
you won’t
how do i give advice to this many people
about their life choices
i won’t
the scary news is
you’re on your own now
but the cool news is
you’re on your own now
[Applause]

i leave you with this
we are led
by our gut instincts
our intuition
our desires and fears our scars and our
dreams
and you will screw it up sometimes
so will i and when i do you will most
likely read about it on the internet
anyway hard things will happen to us
we will recover
we will learn from it
we will grow more resilient because of
it
and as long as we are fortunate enough
to be breathing
we will breathe in
breathe through
breathe deep
and breathe out
and i am a doctor now so i know how
breathing works
i hope you know
how proud
i am
to share this day with you
we’re doing this together
so let’s just keep dancing like we’re
the class of 22.
[Applause]

American actress and Stanford University Almuna (Class of 2007) Issa Rae, delivered the Commencement Address at the senior Class of 2021 ceremony of Stanford’s 130th Commencement on June 12, 2021. Rae analyzed Foxx and Webbie’s “Wipe Me Down” remix lyrics “I pull up at the club VIP, gas tank on E, but all dranks on ME. Wipe Me Down.” as the theme of her speech. She spoke about the importance of building a network and paying it forward.

Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.

American comedic actor and USC alumni Will Ferrell delivered the 134th commencement address at the University of Southern California on May 12, 2017. Ferrell spoke about the value of working on your craft, trusting your guts, ignoring the critics and failing forward.

Your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her final commencement speech as the First Lady of the United States of America to the City College of New York (CCNY) graduating students. Michelle’s speech was very inspiring and full of insights. She had some of the graduates chanting “Four more years”.

Michelle Obama’s 2016 City College of New York Commencement Speech Transcript:

Your life is your story. And the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.

George Washington University alumnae (B.A. ’98), American actress Kerry Washington delivered the commencement address at the National Mall in Washington D.C to a large crowd of graduating students and their loved ones. She spoke about Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey, heeding the call, leaving your comfort zone, living and telling your own stories cos the world needs your voice.

She implored the graduates to go beyond their comfort zones, live and tell their own stories.

Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.

American journalist and Filmmaker Nora Ephron, a 1962 alumnae of Wellesley College, delivered the commencement address to the graduating 1996 class.

It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind.

So throughout this journey, I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth.  I had to answer some basic questions for myself:  Who am I?  No, really, who am I?  What do I care about? 

The former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address at the 2015 Tuskegee University graduating ceremony in Alabama. She delivered a powerful speech about racial discrimination and the pressure of being the first black first lady of the United States of America.

I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values — and follow my own moral compass — then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.

American businesswoman and Information Technology Executive Marissa Mayer who was Google’s employer #20 and former spokeswoman. She served as president and chief executive officer of Yahoo!, from 2012 to 2017. She delivered the speech while she was Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience.

She delivered the commencement speech at Illinois Institute of Technology’s 2009 ceremony on Saturday, May 16, on IIT’s Main Campus.

Financial journalist and American author Michael Lewis delivered his “Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie” speech at the 2012 Princeton Baccalaureate graduation event. Lewis is a member of Princeton’s Class of 1982. He is the author of Liar’s Poker (1989), Moneyball (2003), The Blind Side (2006), and The Big Short (2010).

Micheal Lewis’ Princeton University’s 2012 Commencement Speech Transcript

Fearlessness means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart, more than when you stand with the crowd.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, a Duke Fuqua alumnus delivered the commencement address to the graduating Class of 2018. Tim implored the students to be fearless, courageous, and to be the change they want to be in the world.

Tim Cook’s 2018 Duke University Commencement Speech Transcript:

Hello, Blue Devils! It’s great to be back.

It’s an honor to stand before you—both as your commencement speaker and a fellow Duke graduate.

I earned my degree from the Fuqua School in 1988. In preparing for this speech, I reached out to one of my favorite professors from back then. Bob Reinheimer taught a great course in Management Communications, which included sharpening your public speaking skills.

We hadn’t spoken for decades, so I was thrilled when he told me: he remembered a particularly gifted public speaker who took his class in the 1980s…

With a bright mind and a charming personality!
He said he knew—way back then—this person was destined for greatness.

You can imagine how this made me feel. Professor Reinheimer had an eye for talent. And, if I do say so, I think his instincts were right…

Melinda Gates has really made her mark on the world.

I’m grateful to Bob, Dean Boulding, and all of my Duke professors. Their teachings have stayed with me throughout my career.

I want to thank President Price, the Duke Faculty, and my fellow members of the Board of Trustees for the honor of speaking with you today. I’d also like to recognize this year’s honorary degree recipients.

And most of all, congratulations to the class of 2018!

No graduate gets to this moment alone. I want to acknowledge your parents, grandparents and friends here cheering you on, just as they have every step of the way. Let’s give them our thanks.

Today especially, I remember my mother, who watched me graduate from Duke. I wouldn’t have been there that day—or made it here today—without her support.

Let’s give our special thanks to all the mothers here today, on Mother’s Day.

I have wonderful memories here. Studying—and not studying—with people I still count as friends to this day. Cheering at Cameron for every victory.

Cheering even louder when that victory is over Carolina.

Look back over your shoulder fondly and say goodbye to act one of your life. And then quickly look forward. Act two begins today. It’s your turn to reach out and take the baton.

You enter the world at a time of great challenge.

Our country is deeply divided—and too many Americans refuse to hear any opinion that differs from their own.

Our planet is warming with devastating consequences—and there are some who deny it’s even happening.

Our schools and communities suffer from deep inequality—we fail to guarantee every student the right to a good education.

And yet we are not powerless in the face of these problems. You are not powerless to fix them.

No generation has ever held more power than yours. And no generation has been able to make change happen faster than yours can. The pace at which progress is possible has accelerated dramatically. Aided by technology, every individual has the tools, potential, and reach to build a better world.

That makes this the best time in history to be alive.

Whatever you choose to do with your life…

Wherever your passion takes you.

I urge you to take the power you have been given and use it for good. Aspire to leave this world better than you found it.

I didn’t always see life as clearly as I do now. But I’ve learned the greatest challenge of life is knowing when to break with conventional wisdom.

Don’t just accept the world you inherit today.

Don’t just accept the status quo.

No big challenge has ever been solved, and no lasting improvement has ever been achieved, unless people dare to try something different. Dare to think different.

I was lucky to learn from someone who believed this deeply. Someone who knew that changing the world starts with “following a vision, not a path.” He was my friend and mentor, Steve Jobs.

Steve’s vision was that great ideas come from a restless refusal to accept things as they are. And those principles still guide us at Apple today.

We reject the notion that global warming is inevitable.

That’s why we run Apple on 100% renewable energy.

We reject the excuse that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy.

So we choose a different path: Collecting as little of your data as possible. Being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care. Because we know it belongs to you.

In every way, at every turn, the question we ask ourselves is not ‘what can we do’ but ‘what should we do’.

Because Steve taught us that’s how change happens. And from him I learned to never be content with things as they are.

I believe this mindset comes naturally to young people…and you should never let go of that restlessness.

So today’s ceremony isn’t just about presenting you with a degree, it’s about presenting you with a question.

How will you challenge the status quo? How will you push the world forward?

Fifty years ago today—May 13th, 1968—Robert Kennedy was campaigning in Nebraska, and spoke to a group of students who were wrestling with that same question.

Those were troubled times, too. The U.S. was at war in Vietnam. There was violent unrest in America’s cities. And the country was still reeling from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King a month earlier.

Kennedy gave the students a call to action. When you look across this country, and when you see peoples’ lives held back by discrimination and poverty… when you see injustice and inequality. He said, you should be the last people to accept things as they are.

Let Kennedy’s words echo here today.
“You should be the last people to accept [it].”
Whatever path you’ve chosen…
Be it medicine, business, engineering, the humanities—whatever drives your passion. Be the last to accept the notion that the world you inherit cannot be improved.
Be the last to accept the excuse that says, “that’s just how things are done here.” Duke graduates, you should be the last people to accept it.
And you should be the first to change it.

The world-class education you’ve received—that you’ve worked so hard for—gives you opportunities that few people have.

You are uniquely qualified, and therefore uniquely responsible, to build a better way forward. That won’t be easy. It will require great courage.

But that courage will not only help you live your life to the fullest—it will empower you to transform the lives of others.

Last month I was in Birmingham to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. And I had the incredible privilege of spending time with women and men who marched and worked alongside him.

Many of them were younger at the time than you are now. They told me that when they defied their parents and joined the sit-ins and boycotts, when they faced the police dogs and firehoses, they were risking everything they had—becoming foot soldiers for justice without a second thought.

Because they knew that change had to come.
Because they believed so deeply in the cause of justice.

Because they knew, even with all the adversity they had faced, they had the chance to build something better for the next generation.

We can all learn from their example. If you hope to change the world, you must find your fearlessness.

Now, if you’re anything like I was on graduation day, maybe you’re not feeling so fearless.

Maybe you’re thinking about the job you hope to get, or wondering where you’re going to live, or how to repay that student loan. These, I know, are real concerns. I had them, too. But don’t let those worries stop you from making a difference.

Fearlessness means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart, more than when you stand with the crowd.

Fearlessness means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart, more than when you stand with the crowd.

If you step up, without fear of failure… if you talk and listen to each other, without fear of rejection… if you act with decency and kindness, even when no one is looking, even if it seems small or inconsequential, trust me, the rest will fall into place.

More importantly, you’ll be able to tackle the big things when they come your way. It’s in those truly trying moments that the fearless inspire us.

Fearless like the students of Parkland, Florida—who refuse to be silent about the epidemic of gun violence, and have rallied millions to their cause.

Fearless like the women who say “me, too” and “time’s up”… women who cast light into dark places, and move us toward a more just and equal future.

Fearless like those who fight for the rights of immigrants… who understand that our only hopeful future is one that embraces all who want to contribute.

Duke graduates, be fearless.

Be the last people to accept things as they are, and the first people to stand up and change them for the better.

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech at Page Auditorium to an overflow crowd. Students who couldn’t get a seat listened from outside on the lawn. Dr. King warned them that someday we would all have to atone, not only for the words and actions of the bad people, but for “the appalling silence and indifference of the good people, who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’”

The time is always right to do right. – Martin Luther King Jnr.

Martin Luther King stood right here at Duke, and said: “The time is always right to do right.” For you, graduates, that time is now.
It will always be now.

It’s time to add your brick to the path of progress.

It’s time for all of us to move forward.
And it’s time for you to lead the way.
Thank you—and congratulations, Class of 2018!

A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clark 

On Friday, June 15, 2012, Serial Entrepreneur (SpaceX, Paypal, Tesla, Solarcity) Elon Musk delivered the Commencement Speech titled: “Magicians of the 21st Century” to the graduating 2012 class of California Institute of Technology.

Elon Musk’s Caltech Commencement Speech Transcript: