Some were in person, some were virtual and all were terrific.

Like last year, this 2021 graduation season was primarily on Zoom, although not completely.  There were fewer great graduation speeches to choose from because many colleges and universities changed formats, especially if it was a Zoom graduation.  Here are the ones that have surfaced as being special.

Bryan Stevenson gave a wonderful graduation speech to the University of Michigan graduates, via Zoom.  Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a law professor at NYU, and the author of a memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.  “If we stay hopeful, we can change the world”.  It was a lovely, moving speech to the graduates.


John Legend gave a very thoughtful speech to Duke University’s graduates.  He began with what they’ve lost because of the pandemic.  He then went on to make the point that their learning should not stop upon college graduation, and provided three steps they can take to continue their education while tackling the major issues we all face in the U.S.  It was a different side of John Legend than I’ve ever seen and I thought his speech was articulate, informative, supportive and a good listen for everyone.


Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO, delivered the commencement address to the graduates of Ohio State.  “How you deal with failure may be the most important thing in how you succeed”.  He acknowledged that in the past year, these graduates have been through a pandemic, social and racial injustice, turbulent politics and global recession.  “Celebrate America’s exceptionalism while acknowledging our country’s flaws”.

“To be successful, you need to continue learning”. His message was to learn from watching other people and how they deal with difficult circumstances.


Tim Allen, the actor and comedian, spoke at Hillsdale College’s commencement ceremony.  He is wonderfully introduced by college President Larry Arnn.  While Allen did not graduate from Hillsdale College in Michigan, he did attend Western Michigan University and always wore sweatshirts from Michigan colleges and universities on his TV show “Home Improvement”.

Tim Allen delivered a thoughtful, reminiscent talk that is also full of humor, and ends with great advice.


Kamala Harris, Vice President, delivered commencement address at the Naval Academy.

“You are the engineers who will protect our military strength and the American people are depending on you”.  Kamala Harris is the first woman to deliver a commencement address to the Naval Academy.  Her topic was cyber security threats against the U.S., and she expressed confidence that this class was up to the challenge.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke at UNC Chapel Hill by Zoom. He also gave commencement addresses at Vanderbilt, the Yale School of Public Health and Emory University, all by Zoom!  At UNC-Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt he talked about leadership, public service and social responsibility. At the Yale School of Public Health his speech was focused on public health safety, the various infectious diseases we’ve fought off over the last 50 years, and how important these graduates will be to the world. At Emory University he accepted the President’s Award and spoke briefly about the global crisis and the two lessons he feels the world learned from that crisis.  The first is that science will provide a solution, and the second is that societal divisiveness is counter-productive – we must all work together.

Links to Dr. Fauci’s FOUR commencement addresses!


See ASE’s earlier articles on graduation speeches:


Graduation: beyond platitudes and polyester


ASE’s Favorite 2016 Graduation Speeches