Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 by Will Hagle
NPR has created a section of its site dedicated to the 300 best commencement speeches from the past few hundred years.
For many students, commencement speeches are encouraging words from prominent figures about how to navigate an exciting future. For others, they’re a boring part of an even more boring ceremony. However you feel about the tradition of commencement speeches, it’s apparent that many instances of delivering words of wisdom have been given new life through the Internet. People all around the world have watched commencement speeches like David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water” speech at Kenyon College simply because these speeches are so readily available through YouTube. In honor of the many great commencement speeches that have taken place throughout the past few hundred years, NPR has organized the best 300 addresses into a visually-compelling site. There are some great speeches that you might not even be aware exist hosted on NPR’s site, such as a featured speech by John F. Kennedy at American University in 1963.
The speeches hosted on the site date back to 1774, and all are searchable by name, school, date or theme. NPR even suggests themes, such as “play,” “inner voice,” “embrace failure,” and, for some reason, “Yolo.” You can also browse speeches in alphabetical order (which led me to discover one of my new favorite speeches, Sacha Baron Cohen as the character Ali G speaking at Harvard’s graduation in 2004). Most of the videos are archived via YouTube, and can be watched in full. NPR has also selected some of the best clips to be displayed above each video, as well as some more information about the speeches. There’s also usually a link to a text version of the commencement speech. It’s easy to fall down the “graduation speech wormhole” by continuing to click through prominent names or interesting quotes or different schools on the NPR site, and you can be assured that at each stop you’ll find at least one tidbit of inspiring wisdom.