Back to School: Watch a Great Commencement Speech #30DaysofGOOD

Watch (or read) an outstanding commencement address. Then consider what you would say if you were honored with a place at the podium.

30 Days of GOOD (#30DaysofGOOD) is our monthly attempt to live better. This month we're going "Back to School" and committing to learn something new every day.

It's almost the end of the month, which means we're near the end of August's 30 Days of GOOD "Back to School" challenge. Congratulations on all of your hard work!

Tomorrow, we'll point you to further reading and resources you can use to continue your journey of lifelong learning. But before that, one final task: Watch (or read) an outstanding commencement address.

Start with The Humanity Initiative, which has collected text and video from some of the greatest and most enduring commencement speeches from throughout history. A few recommendations: George Marshall's address to Harvard's class of 1947, Toni Morrison's speech at Wellesley College in 2004, and "My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers," a poem delivered at Lake Forest College in 1977 by—who else—Dr. Seuss.

Then browse through some of 2012's top commencement speeches. Many publications pulled together terrific lists earlier this year, with each speech included as an embedded video. Head over to The Daily Beast to see Steve Carell at Princeton, The Atlantic for President Obama at Barnard, and ABC News to hear Condoleezza Rice's wisdom for this year's graduates of Southern Methodist University.

Finally, consider what you would say if you were to give a commencement address. What have you learned in your life so far that you'd share with people getting their start in the real world? If you're invited someday to give one of these important speeches, there are plenty of places to look for help. Take a look at the writing tips offered by NPR, the Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review for advice in nailing down a topic and delivering your message in the most powerful way possible.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

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