stephen colbert speech

Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.
—  Stephen Colbert

It’s getting to be that time of the year when students wipe tears from watery eyes, exchange final goodbyes and throw their graduation caps into the sky. In other words, it’s graduation season — and that also means the season of commencement speeches.

Above all, commencement is a moment for everyone, even those who didn’t graduate, to feel inspired.

That’s why the NPR Ed team sifted through hundreds of speeches (going all the way back to 1774), handpicked our favorites and built this online database.

So, if you’re stuck listening to a particularly bad speech this month — or just need some inspiration — you have plenty to choose from. You’re welcome.

The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever

Illustration Credit: NPR

Try to make the world good according to your standards. It won’t be easy. Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done — like ending racial tension or getting money out of politics or lowering the world’s carbon emissions. And we should know they can’t be done, after all, we’re the ones who didn’t do them.

stephen colbert’s commencement speech at knox college, pt. 1.

good lord, i love this man. he cracks up around 8:30 and starts swearing.

“seriously, the prairie fire? your team is named after something that can get you federal disaster relief? i assume the ‘flash floods’ was taken.”


Watch the commencement speech Stephen Colbert gave my graduating class as well as the other graduate and undergrad students yesterday. 

It includes some pretty sharp, pointed humor, and a few on target jabs for the university, but also so really wonderful advice for our generation: “Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done, like ending racial tension, or getting money out of politics, or lowering the world’s carbon emissions…. it’s your job to prove us wrong”  Really enjoyed it. Worth a watch. 


stephen colbert’s commencement speech at knox college, pt. 3