Modern Literary Figures | Commencement Speech Series

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Whether you’re looking to transform your own life or you’re planning to give an inspirational speech to others, these great speeches will inspire you and entertain you.

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There is no shortage of motivational (and fun) commencement speeches to watch.

If you’re looking to find yourself in a self-reflective mood. Check out these speeches that are sure to get you thinking.

Scroll for speeches by:

**George Saunders
**David Foster Wallace
**Zadie Smith
**Neil Gaiman

George Saunders
Author of Tenth of December

George Saunders lists all of the things in life he does not regret and points out that the things he has regretted in life are failures of kindness, times when he was unresponsive or responded mildly to people who needed help. His advice to the graduates of Syracuse centers on the idea that people need to let go of their ego and their selfishness and focus on becoming more loving and kind.

David Foster Wallace
Author/Essayist

David Foster Wallace debunks the usual commencement clichés and gets real with the graduates about their future that can be tiring, tedious, stressful, boring, and lonely. He describes using the power of choice to make a conscious decision to exercise control, pay attention, and think in ways that will not make this world seem like such a disparaging place.


Zadie Smith
Novelist

Zadie Smith impresses upon the graduates the importance of working together and embracing the idea of the “work of many hands” and cooperation. Although individualism is good and we should continue to be ourselves, we should challenge ourselves to work together to do things for others, which will help the human race, make us less lonely, and bring us joy.

Neil Gaiman
Novelist

Neil Gaiman shares insights on a life working in the arts including times when he worked for money instead of for the work (which he regretted), when he didn’t go to college so he could start writing right away, and when he made a list at the age of 15 of what he wanted to accomplish as a writer. He talks about the mistakes he has made and failures he has faced that ultimately inspired him to make good art and to enjoy the ride along the way.


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