From Oprah to J.K. Rowling, these famous figures reminded us what truly matters.

By Julia Naftulin
May 22, 2017

Graduation season is in full swing, and that means a whole new crop of commencement addresses full of hard-earned wisdom and thoughtful guidance. The speeches may be written for college seniors, but the advice they impart is often timeless. Below we've rounded up 10 of the most memorable addresses of all time. They're sure to move you—whether you're about to embark on your post-school life, or you need a dose of inspiration along the way.

Pharrell Williams

New York University, 2017

"Engage and inspire, whether on an individual level or loudly within your communities. Talk about your accomplishments. It's very important. Be humble, but not too humble. Don't be invisible."

Steve Jobs

Stanford University, 2005

"Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Wellesley College, 2015

"Now girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give and to take. Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you'll know. You'll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence."

J.K. Rowling

Harvard University, 2008

"Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."

Amy Poehler

Harvard University, 2011

"All I can tell you today is what I have learned, what I have discovered as a person in this world. And that is this: you can't do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own."

Maya Rudolph

Tulane University, 2015

"So hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re going to do tomorrow. But work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn phone once in a while. And be nice to jerks because we still don’t know the criteria for getting into heaven yet."

Michelle Obama

Spelman College, 2011

"The truth is that there will always be folks out there who make assumptions about others. There will always be folks who try to raise themselves up by cutting other people down. That happens to everyone, including me, throughout their lives. But when that happens to you all, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to just stop a minute, take a deep breath, because it’s going to need to be deep, and I want you to think about all those women who came before you."

Arianna Huffington

Sarah Lawrence College, 2011

"And remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible. 'Give me a place to stand,' my Greek compatriot Archimedes said, 'and I will move the world.'"

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Denzel Washington

University of Pennsylvania, 2011

"Because taking a risk is not just about going for a job. It’s also about knowing what you know and what you don’t know. It’s about being open to people and ideas... While it may be frightening, it will also be rewarding because the chances you take, the people you meet, the people you love, the faith that you have, that’s what’s going to define you."

Oprah Winfrey

Agnes Scott College, 2017​​​​​​

"I want you to work in your own way to change the world in respectful conversations with others. I want you to enter every situation aware of its context, open to hear the truth of others and most important, open to letting the process of changing the world change you. That is the spirit of constructive engagement."