Celebrity Commencement Speeches for the Class of 2009

Jaylen Waddle
Jaylen Waddle

In stadiums and auditoriums across the country, graduates are joining for the pomp and circumstance that grants them their hard-earned degrees.

President Obama at the Naval Academy commencement. via Chicago Tribune
President Obama at the Naval Academy commencement. via Chicago Tribune

Much like the hours spent in lecture halls, graduates must wait through just a couple more speeches before their caps are tossed to the air and their diplomas rightly earned. Every graduation has a guest speaker, some more memorable than others. For the class of 2009 at many notable colleges and universities, these famous commencement speakers are certain to be a memorable closing to their college careers.
President Barack Obama
The President spoke at Notre Dame, U.S. Naval Academy, and Arizona State University, where he implored the graduates to see our troubled economy as an opportunity, not a hurdle. “I know starting your career in troubled times is a challenge. But it is also a privilege. Because it is moments like these that force us to try harder, dig deeper, to discover gifts we never knew we had – to find the greatness that lies within each of us.”

First Lady Michelle Obama at University of California-Merced

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at New York University

Oprah Winfrey at Duke

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the University of Southern California

Ellen Degeneres at Tulane
The comedic New Orleanian told the “Katrina class of 2009” that they should ask in interviews how high above sea level their jobs will be, before sharing these parting words of advice. “My idea of success is different today and as you grow the definition of success changes. Today, for many of you, the definition of success, is holding down 20 shots of tequila. For me the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity, and not give in to peer pressure to try to be something you’re not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way.”

oprah-commencement-at-duke
Oprah at the Duke commencement. Via Chicago Tribune

While there were a host of famous faces offering commencement speeches during May, and continuing in June, here are a few notable names we thought worth sharing:

  • Vice President Joe Biden at Wake Forest University
  • Desmond Tutu at the University of North Carolina
  • Katie Couric at Princeton
  • Annie Liebovitz at the Florida Institute of Technology
  • Dolly Parton at the University of Tennessee
  • Tom Brokaw at the College of William and Mary
  • Tim Gunn at Corcoran College of Art and Design
  • Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at his alma mater, Sarah Lawrence
  • Quincy Jones and Laura Linney at Julliard
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at Boston College of Law
  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Larry Bird and Steven Spielberg at Boston University
  • Stephen Colbert at University of South Carolina
  • Jimmy Fallon at College of St. Rose

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