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10 Commencement Speeches by Black Women That Will Give You Life

by Michelle Denise Jackson

The end of May through June is always a wonderful time, as it's when many Black folks graduate with high school diplomas, as well with undergraduate and advanced degrees. It's always great to see our people pursuing their dreams and achieving greatness.

Another added bonus is the number of phenomenal and successful Black women who are invited to give the commencement speech at colleges and universities around the country.

Whether or not you're graduating this year, these women's words ring true and inspirational. We can all take a moment to appreciate and and soak in their wisdom, humor, honesty, and insight.


1. Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University (2015)

"Because even if you’re nervous or unsure about what path to take in the years ahead, I want you to realize that you’ve got everything you need right now to succeed. You’ve got it."


2. Shonda Rhimes at Dartmouth University (2014)

"Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week."


3. Oprah at Harvard University (2013)

"There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction."


4. Toni Morrison at Wellesley College (2004)

"And although you don't have complete control over the narrative—no author does, I can tell—you can nevertheless create it."


5. Donna Brazile at Spelman College (2015)

"Why you? Because there's no one better. Why now? Because tomorrow is not soon enough."


6. Maya Angelou at Spelman College (1992)

"And it is imperative that you see yourselves as having been loved. And are loved now."


7. Kerry Washington at George Washington University (2013)

"As we journey along with the hero of any story, we realize that we too are the lead characters of our own lives. I am here today to remind each of you that you are the heroes of your story."


8. Maya Rudolph at Tulane University (2015)

"If I must give any of you advice it would be Say Yes. Say Yes. And… create your own destiny. So hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are."


9. Mellody Hobson at the University of Southern California (2015)

"Your bravest self will be your best self."


10. Chimamande Ngozi Adichie at Wellesley College (2015)

"Your standardized ideologies will not always fit your life. Because life is messy."



H/T Women in the World, Black Enterprise 

Photo: Wellesley College / YouTube

Michelle Denise Jackson is Senior Editor at For Harriet. You can follow her on Twitter @MichelleJigga or reach her by email via michelle@forharriet.com.

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