10-second advice for college grads

We collected the nuggets of wisdom from past Boston area commencement speeches.

Brian Snyder/reuters
Amy Poehler at Harvard University.

A look at commencement-speech advice.


“The most important words that have helped me in life when things have gone right or when things have gone wrong are ‘Accept responsibility.’ ” — Billie Jean King, tennis player and gay-rights advocate, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2000

“Dreaming during such turbulent times indeed takes courage, but an even greater valor is required once those dreams are fulfilled.”  — Michael Oren, historian, Brandeis University, 2010


“Your biggest risk isn’t failing, it’s getting too comfortable.” — Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox, MIT, 2013  

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“Be bold. Be bold. Be bold.’’  — Susan Sontag, writer, Wellesley College, 1983


“You need not settle for any defining category. You don’t have to be merely a taxpayer or a red state or a blue state or a consumer or a minority or a majority. Of course, you’re general, but you’re also specific. A citizen and a person, and the person you are is like nobody else on the planet.” — Toni Morrison, writer, Wellesley College, 2004


“Do stuff you will enjoy thinking about and telling stories about for many years to come. Do stuff you will want to brag about.”  — Rachel Maddow, MSNBC commentator, Smith College, 2010

Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Bill Gates at Harvard University.



“Life is not about warming yourself by the fire, life is about building the fire.” — Larry Lucchino, Red Sox CEO, Boston University, 2008  

“The most enduring skill you can bring to the workplace . . . is the ability to learn how to learn.”  — Thomas L. Friedman, journalist and author, Williams College, 2005

“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.” — Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, Harvard University, 2007


“It is very common . . . to tell graduates: Dream, and dream big. I say do more than that. When you dream, you are in an unconscious state. It ends. You wake up. It’s not real. You need to create a vision. This takes determination and a plan that takes your dream to a destination.” — Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2010   


“ ‘Yes and’ is the vital and only rule of improvisation. Never deny your fellow actor.”  — Jane Lynch, actress/comedian, Smith College, 2012  


“Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while and look at people’s faces.” — Amy Poehler, actress/comedian, Harvard University, 2011