Handpicked Inspirational 2017 Commencement Speeches

African Leadership University (ALU) plays a leading role in empowering future leaders from around the world, and the university years involve dedication and are a lot of hard work, regardless of whether you are enrolled for the first time or are returning after having been enrolled in the past. Staying in for the long haul pays off, and these successful people can attest to the rewards of starting and, hopefully, finishing college. Read more about what they said at recent commencement ceremonies.

Mark Zuckerberg


You are certainly aware of who Mark Zuckerberg is, and possibly use the product he is most famous for: Facebook. In Harvard commencement address, he helped lighten things up by joking that, if he got through the speech, it would be the first time he finished anything at Harvard, which he dropped out of to help found Facebook.

One thing he emphasized is that these graduates need to help create a world that gives everyone a sense of purpose. Having a sense of something greater than ourselves is a good motivation for us to do our best and impact the world for the better.

Kenya Barris


One of Barris’ best pieces of advice for graduating students at Tufts came from his wife after he told her how nervous he was about giving the address. She advised him to stay true to himself.

Barris detailed the passions he followed throughout his childhood, ultimately leading to becoming a TV writer. He discovered that his childhood love of books and writing ultimately made the difference in his life’s path.

Once he started working as a writer, his big break came with writing the TV show “Black-ish.” The show’s specific sense of humor and honest look at elements from Barris’ life led to its success and help illustrate the value of being true to oneself and taking risks.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Adichie addressed the graduating class at Williams College on the importance of not banking on luck. Her message, valuable to students from all walks of life, is derived from her experiences growing up under a dictatorship in Nigeria. She emphasized the need for the students to always be willing to take a stand regarding the issues that matter most.

Another resounding theme throughout her speech was the power of ambition, particularly concerning the fact that female graduates face additional obstacles in achieving their goals. Students making the transition from college life to life after graduation can always benefit from knowing the power of ambition, especially if their loved ones question the validity of their dreams.

Oprah Winfrey


Winfrey is known as much for her philanthropic work as she is for for place in the entertainment world, making her an inspiration for future world-changers. Speaking to the female graduates of Smith College, she encouraged students to use their various talents to change the world for the better.

Winfrey highlighted the idea of an alignment existing between action and personal identity, which she regards as authentic empowerment. For future leaders to make the biggest impact on the world, they must feel empowered in their work.

About ALU

ALU provides higher education for a higher purpose. Our students declare missions, not majors.

They develop the real-world skills to take on the world’s most pressing challenges. And they take ownership of their learning from day one through our peer and student-led approach – because ALU believes in the power and agency of young people to start shaping the future right now.

Together with a world-class faculty and staff, our students are igniting a ripple of positive impact across Africa and the world. Join us

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