Commencement Speeches

Commencement Speeches

Updated May 23, 2014 at 04:49PM EDT by Brad.

Added May 21, 2014 at 02:30PM EDT by Molly Horan.

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Commencement Speeches are special addresses presented as parting words of wisdom and life advice for the graduating class at high school or college graduation ceremonies. Since the advent of YouTube and other video-sharing sites in the mid-2000s, a number of commencement speeches given by notable alumni, public figures and celebrities have gone viral for their inspirational or humorous messages.


One of the earliest commencement speech videos to go viral online was Apple founder Steve Jobs’ address to Stanford University’s graduating class on June 12th, 2005. The video was uploaded online for the first time via Apple History’s YouTube channel[1] on March 6th, 2006, followed by another version uploaded via Stanford University’s[2] YouTube channel on March 7th, 2008. However, Steve Jobs’ speech received much of its online exposure following his death in October 2011. The two versions have racked up more than 27 million views in aggregate as of May 2014.


On January 8th, 2006, YouTuber braddma[9] uploaded Will Ferrell’s speech to the 2003 graduating class of Harvard in five parts (shown below, left). The speech has frequently been included on lists of the best commencement speeches including lists published by Rolling Stone[10] and AOL Jobs.[11] As of May 2014, the first video has gained over 1.4 million views. On June 8th, 2006, YouTuber espank9[6] uploaded the 2006 Harvard commencement speech given by Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane in four parts (shown below, right). His speech was covered by several websites, including Entertainment Weekly[7] and College Humor,[8] with many outlets highlighting the fact that MacFarlane gave the speech in the voices of three of his Family Guy characters: Stewie, Peter, and Quagmire. As of May 2014, the most viewed clip featuring the voice of Stewie has gained over 2.9 million views.

On June 15th, 2008, Stanford University uploaded a video of Oprah Winfrey giving a commencement address to the 2008 graduating class. As of May 2014, the video has gained over 1.2 million views. On June 7th, 2012, Wellesley High School[3] uploaded the commencement speech given by English teacher David McCullough to the graduating class. The speech was covered by several websites, including The Huffington Post[4] and The Daily Beast[5], most notably for McCullough’s sobering advice summed up in his quote “you’re not special.” As of May 2014, the video has gained over 2.2 million views.

On June 12th, 2012, the vlogger duo Rhett & Link[12] uploaded a video of themselves giving a commencement speech to the 2012 graduating class of their alma mater, Harnett Central High School, during which they delivered a segment of their speech as a musical performance. As of May 2014, the video has gained over 860,000 views.

On May 19th, 2014, actress Sandra Bullock surprised[16] the graduating class of Warren Easton Charter High School by delivering their commencement address (below, left). Bullock had donated money to the school after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On May 20th, 2014, Merrimack College uploaded a video of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor Charlie Day giving a commencement address to the 2014 graduating class via its YouTube channel.[13] Several websites featured the speech including UpRoxx[14] and TIME.[15] Within 48 hours, the video gained over 400,000 views.

Notable Examples

Search Interest

Search interest spiked in October 2011, after Steve Jobs’ death on October 5th, 2011.

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