8 Commencement Speakers Whose Graduation Advice We Can't Wait to Hear


Graduation. A time for reflecting on the past, hoping for a bright future, and having to endure boring speeches. No offense to the valedictorians who have worked on their speeches for weeks, but no one cares. There may be moments of originality, but at their hearts all commencement speeches reflect the same hope for the graduates to go forward and make their mark on the world.

And I might be dating myself here, but you can only hear quotes from Green Day’s Good Riddance and Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) before they lose their meaning.

But just as there are some people who inexplicably like Brussels sprouts, there are exceptions to the boring graduation speech rule. If you haven’t seen Seth MacFarlane’s speech to the Class of 2006 at Harvard, do yourself a favor and watch it right now. Last year, saw some really great speeches as well.

From producers and politicians to scientists and pop culture favorites, this year’s list of university guest commencement speakers is shaping up to full of highlights. Extensive lists of 2013’s speakers can be found from Inside Higher Ed and Graduation Wisdom. Here are eight commencement speakers we can’t wait to hear life lessons from:

1. Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly; Bard College

Since being shot at a political event in 2011, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has made a remarkable recovery and become a champion for gun control in the United States. During her time in the House of Representatives, Giffords was an advocate for advancements in science and technology. She previously gave the 2009 commencement speech at Scripps College. Her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, is a retired astronaut who commanded two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station. Giffords and Kelly will speak at Bard College on May 25.

2. Stephen Colbert; University of Virginia

Whether he’s making us laugh while educating us on The Colbert Report or testifying before Congress, Stephen Colbert is always entertaining. His speech to the 2011 graduates of Northwestern University included some great zingers. You can read that speech here or just watch it. Colbert will be speaking at the University of Virginia on May 18.

3. Neil deGrasse Tyson; Rice University

In his life, Neil deGrasse Tyson has gone from public school student to one of the faces of science and space.  Currently the Frederick P. Rose Director at the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson has catapulted to being the go-to astrophysicist for the media, making multiple appearances on programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. A master of the awesome sound bite, Tyson will be the featured speaker at Rice University’s 100th commencement on May 11. Who knows, maybe he’ll even make Pluto a planet again.

4. Carson Kressley; Philadelphia University

We love Carson. Ever since Queer Eye for the Straight Guy premiered on Bravo, Kressley has been a fan favorite. If great style was all he had going for him we would still pay attention, but Kressley is a World Champion equestrian and a great humanitarian. He is heavily involved with The Trevor Project, AIDS Walk, and the Human Rights Campaign just to name a few. Kressley will be speaking at Philadelphia University on May 11.

5. Terry Bradshaw; New England Institute of Technology

Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw has done a little bit of everything. He is a best-selling author, an actor and even a gospel singer. Bradshaw will be the commencement speaker at the New England Institute of Technology on May 5. You only need to watch some of Bradshaw’s numerous appearances on The Tonight Show to see why he’s a speaker we can’t wait to hear advice from. You never know what he’ll say.

6. Joss Whedon; Wesleyan University

There are many reasons people wear shirts that say “Joss Whedon is my Master Now”: Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, The Avengers, his vast charity work, and his interaction with fans. Mainly, he’s just freaking awesome. The faculty and students at Wesleyan University seem to agree. He will deliver a commencement speech there on May 26.

7. Joe Biden; University of Pennsylvania

Since the age of 29, Joe Biden has dedicated his life to serving his fellow Americans as a member of the US government. As the 47th vice president, Biden has tried to help implement a plan to stimulate the economy, increase our diplomatic ties, and has recently taken up the cause of gun control. The Vice President will be giving the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania on May 13.

8. Bill Clinton; Howard University

Since finishing his second term in the White House, the 42nd president of the United States has founded both the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is an author, a dedicated humanitarian, and a kickass saxophone player. The accomplishments in his life give him much to draw from when crafting an inspiring commencement address. Clinton will be speaking at Howard University on May 11.

Bonus: Michael Uslan; Mohawk Valley Community College

This one is purely for my own enjoyment. Uslan has been the producer for every Batman movie since Tim Burton’s film in 1989. After acquiring the film rights to the character in 1979, Uslan was rejected by every studio in Hollywood in his crusade to get Batman on the big screen. He is speaking at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York on May 24. Based on his 2006 speech at Indiana University, this year’s address will be amazing. Someone, please, put this on YouTube.