Graduation speeches are usually uplifting, funny, and heartfelt, but some of the most memorable speakers take the format in a different direction. Below, we’ve shared 10 weird graduation commencement speeches that broke the mold and gave students plenty to ponder.
Iconic children’s author Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was invited to give a commencement speech and accept an honorary degree at Lake Forest College, but there was miscommunication along the way. The school president, Eugene Hotchkiss, wasn’t sure if Geisel had any words prepared. Instead of reading a traditional speech, the eccentric writer recited an original poem about his uncle ordering popovers at a restaurant. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression.
To prepare graduates for the real world, Hollywood writer Joss Whedon delivers a funny and dark speech about the inevitability of death. “You have in fact already begun to die”, he says in a dramatic voice. Then, he shares wise words about following your dreams, with some black humor peppered throughout.
Everyone’s favorite comedian, Will Ferrell, gave an unsurprisingly funny speech at Harvard during the peak of his career. He danced on stage with a sailor’s cap, diving right into a playful and ridiculous story about Bill Gates, secret voting, and getting rejected from Harvard. It’s an unorthodox speech that jumps from joke to joke, ending with a performance of “Dust in the Wind”. Weird graduation speakers don’t get much better than this.
Thank the University of Vermont administrators for this completely bizarre graduation speech from two cartoon voice actors. Tom Kenny (a.k.a. SpongeBob SquarePants) and Bill Fagerbakke (a.k.a. Patrick Star) give their commencement address entirely in character. They even deliver a weird rendition of Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)”.
Receiving a “doctorate of amphibious letters”, Kermit the Frog tells stories about his childhood as a tadpole. The strange commencement choice garnered support from Southampton students, but a fair amount of controversy as well.
You can always rely on Kanye to say shocking and strange things. While accepting an honorary degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, he rambles for 5 minutes about George W. Bush, his “Floyd Mayweather belts”, and “making all of our lives easier”. It’s an awkward and arrogant speech that tries to be profound, but just confuses everyone.
Actor Ed Helms’ claim to fame is Andy Bernard, the dorky Cornell graduate and acapella enthusiast from The Office. It’s almost too perfect that Helms would be asked to give a commencement speech at Cornell, and he knocks it out of the park. He jibes students for their “communist” Big Red bear mascot, and ends the address by encouraging them to “be a fool” and not give into the world’s cynicism.
It’s not often that weird graduation commencement speeches are given more than once, but Aaron Sorkin repeats long passages from his 1997 Syracuse University address when he returns to the school in 2012. He also pulls quotes from his TV work, like The West Wing.
People love Flo, the friendly insurance saleswoman from the Progressive commercials. The actor’s real name is Stephanie Courtney, and she gives a passionate speech to Binghamton’s graduating class. She tells inspiring anecdotes about catering the Oscars, working hard for 15 years, and never giving up on her dreams.
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