Author! Author! 5 Best Commencement Speeches by Writers

Author! Author! 5 Best Commencement Speeches by Writers

It’s high season for sage words.

Everyone has an opinion on what makes for the best commencement speeches. Is it two parts humor, one part heart? Or is it equal measure of advice and anecdote? For me, I find the most moving speeches those composed by authors—people who already have a way with words. So with that in mind, here are 5 of the best commencement speeches—my favorites. Interestingly, each one of them touch on failure—so watch when you’re looking for a little inspiration:

John Green, Butler University 2013

Green, author of the very popular “The Fault in Our Stars,” tells Butler grads that the journey to becoming a hero isn’t once from weakness to strength, but indeed, the opposite—from being the BMOC to just a dude getting someone their coffee.

Neil Gaiman, University of the Arts Class of 2012

Gaiman made me cry. I don’t know why—maybe it’s because his advice, to “make good art,” at your highest of highs and lowest of lows, touched the writer in me, especially when he speaks about freelance work around the 13:30 mark. Honest, true, hilarious.

David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College, 2005

Wallace’s 2005 address was recently re-introduced in a shorter video segment, but the full-length audio is well worth a listen. “The most obvious important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” It’s about recognizing that just because everyone’s realities may be different than yours, they’re no less important.

Aaron Sorkin, Syracuse University, 2012

I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago when it comes to Sorkin. He’s polarizing, for sure—people either love him or loathe him. “How you live matters.” Yep.

Max Brooks, Pitzer University, 2011

Brooks is the author of “World War Z”—and about to get renewed attention from the upcoming movie adaptation. This isn’t the most eloquent speech, but Zombie Dude be funny. Failure can be a good thing! (Warning! Take a Dramamine prior to watching the video. Really.)

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