Three life-changing graduation speeches from African-American public figures


The time to celebrate the four years student’s have dedicated to their education is approaching. It’s no surprise that graduation commencement speeches are meant to inspire students as they begin a new chapter in their life. Here are three life-changing speeches that are still remembered today.

Denzel Washington at Dillard University in 2015

Washington is an actor who has captivated the world with his talent. In 2000, he won the Golden Globe for the Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for The Hurricane. In his commencement speech, he retells three life stories to the graduates that have helped him persevere in life. 

“Fail big, that’s right. Fail big, today is the beginning of the rest of your life and you can be just – be very frightening. And it’s a new world out there, it’s a mean world out there. You only live once, so do what you feel passionate about.”

Chadwick Boseman at Howard University in 2018

Boseman is an actor famous for playing Marvel superhero Black Panther. The film 42 was his first starring role. In 2020, he passed away from colon cancer. In his 2018 commencement speech, he gets personal with the graduates as a Howard alumnus.

“Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

Oprah Winfrey at Harvard University in 2013

Winfrey is known for her television show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In 2018, she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which is given to those that have dedicated their life to the world of entertainment. She’s an inspiration to many, and in her commencement speech, she motivates graduates to prosper when life becomes difficult as she has done in her life. 

Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost but then here’s the key, learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are.”