Three 2016 Commencement Speakers We’re Jealous Of

2016 Commencement Speakers

From notable Hollywood directors to powerful businesswomen, these public figures are role models for graduating students everywhere.


Steven Spielberg, Harvard Medical School:

Does this award-winning filmmaker really need any introduction? Whether you’re heart is warmed by the mere thought of E.T., or if you’re an fan of more mature pieces like Schindler’s List, the individuals who can’t find some reason to admire this master artist of film are few and far between.

At Harvard’s graduation in May, Spielberg began his speech by recounting his own college graduation, which he completed only 14 years ago, after having originally dropped out to pursue his film career. He made a point to add that when he eventually returned to school at Cal State, Long Beach, the school did give him credit for his work on the film Jurassic Park.

He then took time to reflect finding inner purpose, and how in order to pursue and make a better future, we must learn from the past. He emphasized the importance of staying connected to each other, and the impact that has on our humanity. To sum everything up, he finished with a quote truly fitting of only Speilberg: “I imagine many possible futures in my films, but you will determine the actual future, and I hope that it’s filled with justice and peace and finally, I wish you all a true Hollywood-style ending. I hope you outrun the T-Rex, catch the criminal, and for your parents’ sake, maybe now and then, just like E.T.—go home.

Steven Spielberg


Ken Burns, Stanford University:

This Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary director, known for his use of archival footage in his story-telling, recently spoke At California’s Stanford University, and gave a speech that was certainly passionate and newsworthy, if anything. Articles and a viral video of the speech have been circulating the web, due to Burns controversially using a whopping 10 minutes of his speech time “demolishing” everything about Donald Trump, although never explicitly stating the presidential candidate’s name.

He began his speech by explaining that he always strives for “conscious neutrality in my work, avoiding the advocacy of many of my colleagues,” which by all means is a very admirable character trait to be promoted to recent graduates. However, it’s more than clear that his speech centered around current political and social issues was anything but. In reference to the recent rap conviction of Stanford student Brock Turner, Burns also took the opportunity to advocate for the serious prevention of sexual assault, and the protection of victims.

Whether, you agree or disagree with his viewpoints, whether you think Burns’ take on a commencement speech was inappropriate or not, it was by all means lively and interesting. And it certainly made Stanford’s ceremony stand out from just another typical graduation.Ken Burns Stanford Commencement

Sally Jewell, University of Washington School of Medicine:

An exceptionally accomplished business woman, Sally Jewell has had a long career both productive and eclectic in nature. With a degree in mechanical engineering, Jewell went on to become the president and CEO of the outdoors supplies retailer REI, and currently serves as the 51st United States Secretary of the Interior. And now she has returned to her alma mater to to honor the graduating class of 2016.

Jewell good-humoredly began her speech by recollecting her own time spent as a University of Washington Student, and everything the school “gave” her: lots of purple clothing, several student jobs and even her husband. Then, of course, the university gave her her education, not just academic, but education that shaped her character as a person.

Referring to the end of President Obama’s presidency in January, and thus the end of her own run as Secretary of the Interior, Jewell compared her own uncertainty to she had in her future to the uncertainty many of the students likely had in theirs. She advised students to keep exploring, to embrace public service, and “don’t let time pass you by without having fulfilled some of your greatest desires.”

Sally Jewell

Sally Jewell, president and chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) and nominee for U.S. Interior secretary.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Samantha Hendricks
No Comments

Post A Comment