From Oprah Winfrey to Will Ferrell: Celeb Commencement Speeches That Might Make You Cry

While high school and college seniors gear up to begin their post-grad lives, select stars are preparing to deliver inspiring, hilarious and life-altering speeches on graduation day.

Here, a few nuggets of advice the following celebs have doled out while taking the graduation stage this year:

Oprah Winfrey: Live a Life of Substance

“You’re nothing if you’re not the truth,” Winfrey told the crowd at Agnes Scott College. “I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life – I’ve made a fortune, really – all good! – from being true to myself. If I can leave you with any message today: The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good, you can get a lot of great shoes!”

“Those of you who have a lot of shoes know having a closet full of shoes doesn’t fill up your life. Living a life of substance can. Substance through your service.”

Janelle Monáe: ‘Choose Freedom Over Fear’

“And so on this day graduates of 2017, I celebrate you as you remember the power of grace and pride,” the singer-actress told Dillard University graduates. “And I challenge you to choose freedom over fear.”

Sheryl Sandberg: ‘We Build Resilience in Ourselves’

Addressing Virginia Tech graduates, the Facebook COO said: “We don’t have a set amount of resilience – it’s a muscle that any of us can build. We build resilience in ourselves. We build it in the people we love. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called ‘collective resilience,’ and it’s an incredibly powerful force – one that our country and world need so badly right now.”

Sandberg said that as she grieved her own loss – her husband’s sudden death in 2015 – she learned that “it takes strength to rely on others.” She added: “There are times to lean in and there are times to lean on.”

Will Ferrell: ‘You’re Never Not Afraid’

“Yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid,” the Saturday Night Live alum told USC graduates, speaking of his early years, sitting in an apartment alone “eating spaghetti topped with mustard.” But, he added, “My fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of ‘What if? What if I never tried at all?’ ”

“No matter how cliché it may sound,” he told the class of 2017, “You will never truly be successful until you learn to get beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.”

Octavia Spencer: ‘You’re Going to Have to Roll Up Your Sleeves’

In her speech at the Kent State University graduation ceremony, the Oscar winner spoke of her experience working on Hidden Figures with her costars, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe. “Taraji, Janelle and I portrayed women who worked for NASA at a time at best can be described as turbulent crossroads of our history,” the actress shared. “They responded to that tumultuous time and efforts to quiet their voices by rolling up their sleeves and doing the work and I think that’s fair to say that we’re in a similar period right now and no matter where your values lie, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves just like Dorothy Vaughan.”

Pharrell Williams: ‘Fuel the Demand for the Better’

Speaking to the graduating class at New York University, Williams said, “You might think your time and education is done, but after you leave here today I’m asking you guys to let your actions out there in the world fuel the demand for the better, and accessible education.”

He later concluded with a rallying cry: “I know that somebody out there right now in this class just might occupy the White House one day. And let me be clear: not red, and not blue, but maybe purple like NYU!”



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