9 Commencement Quotes That Will Inspire You

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It’s that time of year again, when esteemed politicians, bestselling novelists, famous actresses, and luminaries of all kinds address graduating seniors and dole out advice for heading into the real world.

I like to read commencement speeches from past years, because I find that much of their wisdom speaks to navigating through the challenges of depression and embracing the kind of optimism that makes us more emotionally resilient. Here are a few sound bites from some of the most inspiring commencement addresses that will motivate you toward peace, happiness, and better health.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”

– J. K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008

2. Be True to Yourself

“Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, and by all means you should follow that. Don’t give advice — it will come back and bite you in the ass. Don’t take anyone’s advice. So my advice to you is to be true to yourself, and everything will be fine.”

– Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009

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