Commencement Speeches 2014: Quotes

Grads get the lowdown from Puff Daddy—and Janet Yellen

Illustration by Steven Weissman

“Don’t wait to be invited to important meetings or … to work on crucial assignments. Instead, do what it takes to ensure that you’re at the middle of your business. Speak up. Volunteer. Show your enthusiasm. Knock on doors.”
—Mary Barra
CEO, General Motors
University of Michigan

“When you are chided for your naïveté—and you will be—remind your critics that an amateur built the ark and experts built the Titanic.”
—Peyton Manning
Denver Broncos quarterback
University of Virginia

“The real joy in life comes from giving. It comes from service. It comes from doing things for other people. That is what is so powerful about this. Nothing will make you happier than giving.”
—Marc Benioff
University of Southern California

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.”
—Bill Nye
The Science Guy
University of Massachusetts at Lowell

“No one is going to take you to the front of the line unless you push your way to the front of the line.”
—Sean “Diddy” Combs
Music mogul and CEO, Sean John Clothing
Howard University

“You are graduating today as the most diverse class in Yale’s long history. Or, as they call it in the NBA, Donald Sterling’s worst nightmare.”
—John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State
Yale University

“What’s next for me? I don’t know, so I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you. And like you, I’m a little scared but also excited.”
—Jill Abramson
Former executive editor, The New York Times
Wake Forest University

“Focus on signal over noise. A lot of companies get confused; they spend money on things that don’t actually make the product better.”
—Elon Musk
CEO, Tesla Motors and SpaceX
University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business (undergraduate)

“When this ceremony is over, but you’re still in that gown, let [your families] hug you. … They will look back on today and say, ‘That was one of the happiest days of my life.’ You will look back on today and say, ‘Did I really think that was an OK way to wear my hair?’ ”
—Sheryl Sandberg
Chief operating officer, Facebook
City Colleges of Chicago

“The only thing that is assured is that we are going to live in a world where we cannot escape each other.”
—Bill Clinton
Former U.S. president
New York University Abu Dhabi

“There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called ability. But research indicates that our best measures of these qualities are unreliable predictors of performance in academics or employment.”
—Janet Yellen
Federal Reserve Chair
New York University

“A great team, great energy, and great hard work will never make up for a bad idea.”
—Steve Ballmer
Former CEO, Microsoft
University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business (graduate)

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