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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.

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Ten Commencement Speakers You Wish You'd Had

These ten speakers inspired but still kept it real with their audiences, making their graduation speeches memorable years after they were given.


Graduation is an exciting time, but let's face it: Commencement speeches aren't always memorable. A completely unscientific poll of the GOOD office revealed that almost none of us recall our college commencement speakers, or what they said to us (although we suspect it was something like, "You've worked hard! Yay!"). So here are 10 commencement speakers—and their inspiring, funny, and just plain on-point words of wisdom—that we wish we'd heard on graduation day.

1. Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005: Jobs hits all the right notes in this speech, in which he shares his own humble upbringings and reflects on his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. He told the crowd, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

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Obama Made the Right Choice to Speak at the First Black High School in Memphis

Booker T. Washington High School beat out over 450 other schools to get President Obama as a commencement speaker.

\n\n\n\n\n Congratulations are in order for Memphis, Tennessee's Booker T. Washington High School. The school is the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. President Obama will head there later this spring to deliver the graduation speech.

Booker T. Washington opened its doors in 1873 and was the first public high school in segregated Memphis that black students were allowed to attend. As the school's finalist video details, in recent years the 500-student campus has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—98 percent of students live in poverty and 20 percent of student's homes were lost when a housing project was demolished—and increased the graduation rate from 55 to 82 percent.

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