After years of balancing late night study sessions, research projects, exams and internships, one thing is for certain: finally receiving that hard-earned degree on graduation day is a major accomplishment to celebrate. Between feelings of pride and ambition for a future filled with achievements and success, graduation is just the beginning of a new remarkable journey full of fresh challenges and opportunity. As some of our favorite thought leaders have shared from personal experience, life will still throw curveballs, but there are several important points to keep in mind along the way:
“No matter what challenges or setbacks or disappointments you may encounter along the way, you will find true success and happiness if you have only one goal, there really is only one, and that is this: to fulfill the highest most truthful expression of yourself as a human being.”
— Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."
— Steve Jobs, Stanford University
"Understand that your success in life won’t be determined just by what’s given to you, or what happens to you, but by what you do with all that’s given to you—what you do with all that happens to you. How hard you try, how far you push yourself, how high you’re willing to reach. True excellence only comes with perseverance. This wasn’t something I really understood when I was back your age."
— Barack Obama, Kalamazoo High School
"Knowing who you are will help you when it's time to fight. Fight for the job you want, fight for the people who mean the most to you and fight for the kind of world you want to live in. It will help when people say that's impossible or you can't do that. Look, if you take the unexpected opportunities when they come up, if you know yourself, and if you fight for what you believe in, I can promise that you will live a life that is rich with meaning."
Elizabeth Warren, Suffolk University
"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, Harvard University
"Fall forward. This is what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out 2,600 times in his career, the most in the history of baseball. But you don't hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn't know that because the 1,001st was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success."
— Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania
“But my dear graduates, let me be frank, the best years are very much ahead of you. And they can be whatever you want them to be… As much as you’ve changed during your time here, more change is coming. You’re going to continue to evolve in unforeseen ways. You are full of complexities and wonders that haven’t even begun to surface. Life’s unpredictability will draw these out and what defines you now will be mere shades and hues of a more vibrant you over the next five, 10, 50 years. Honestly, I can’t think of anything more liberating than that, knowing that life will look differently than you think it will.”
— Octavia Spencer, Kent State University