• Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Greatest graduation and commencement speeches from sports figures


May 26, 2023

It really is graduation season: a time to celebrate the culmination of years of perform and achievement, not only by the graduates but their parents, siblings and good friends. Along with the cap, gown and diploma, aspect of graduation day is becoming honored by a specific commencement speaker. These speakers variety from presidents to actors to, you guessed it, athletes.

From speaking at their alma maters to providing new graduates from other schools some inspiration, athletes are well-known alternatives as keynote speakers and have offered some memorable addresses. Right here are some of the ideal commencement speeches from the sports globe.

Allyson Felix, USC, 2022

Simple theme: Acquiring your voice. Felix, who has won seven Olympic gold medals, spoke at her alma mater. She told a story about how, regardless of all her good results, she had to fight for a new sponsorship deal when she got pregnant. That led Felix to give voice to the inequality in the sport and stand up for herself.

Funniest line: “When I parked [on my first day of class], I produced positive that I place my [steering wheel security device] on, and I was all set. I headed across the street to class. Classes went good. Almost everything went properly. And I went back to come across my auto. I looked up and down the aisle exactly where I believed I parked, and I could not come across it anyplace. I got actually nervous that somebody broke into my auto — they have to have figured out how to eliminate my club and they took off in my auto. I known as my brother in a panic. I told him all of that. And he swiftly calmed me down, began to chuckle and let me know that my auto had been towed.”

Words of wisdom: “Your voice has energy, and you have to use your voice, even if it shakes. There are occasions when you are going to ask for alter, and there are occasions when you are going to have to produce it. Your life has goal, so it really is significant to reside a life of goal.”

Jay Wright, Villanova University, 2022

Simple theme: Determination. Wright spoke to the Class of 2022 shortly following his final Final 4 run at the college. Wright retired as the Wildcats coach following the 2022 season and told the graduates that he deemed himself aspect of the class. He told stories of his basketball philosophies and the lessons he went back to just before winning his initial national title.

Funniest line: “To the parents, uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, brothers, sisters, household and good friends gathered right here to assistance these young talented persons, I know lots of of you are proud. I know lots of of you are shocked, and a couple of of you will not think it till you see the diploma in hand. My parents had been the latter.”

Words of wisdom: “I am in awe of every single a single of you. Your determination, resiliency and fortitude will go down in history. I am so proud to be a aspect of you now. I hope you will take into consideration me to be an honorary member of the Class of 2022.”

Whether or not in college or higher college, the Class of 2020 went via a lot. The coronavirus pandemic sent schools on the internet. It also took away the on-campus, in-particular person experiences that make these areas specific. Speakers for that class universally noted these factors irrespective of whether creating specific videos or delivering speeches from their houses.

As aspect of a specific broadcast by NBC, Rapinoe and James had been amongst the actors, musicians and other celebrities supplying their suggestions to the graduates.

The two Olympians and sports icons hit on the similar theme — that 2020, and facing the pandemic and social injustices about the nation, had been defining moments for a generation. What came subsequent would be up to the Class of 2020.

Rapinoe’s words of wisdom: “We are separated in methods we’ve by no means seasoned and facing a globe that will by no means be the similar. So, I am not asking you to come collectively. I am going to ask you to demand improved collectively.”

James’ words of wisdom: “Pursue every single ambition, go as far as you can possibly dream and be the initial generation to embrace a new duty, a duty to rebuild your neighborhood.”

Simple theme: Moving forward. Ionescu had returned to Oregon for her final season of eligibility whilst beginning a master’s system. She had a opportunity to lead the Ducks to a national title, but then the pandemic hit and her outstanding college profession, like so lots of other folks, came to a deflating finish.

Throughout the production of her address, Ionescu sank a half-court shot.

@sabrina_i20 🐐🎓 pic.twitter.com/QuaF9h4FXC

— University of Oregon (@uoregon) June 20, 2020

Words of wisdom: “If you are passionate about some thing, inform the globe. Advocate for alter, not just for oneself, but for other folks as properly.”

Simple theme: Going for the win. Just months just before Mahomes addressed Texas Tech students, he won his initial Super Bowl following winning his initial NFL MVP in the prior year. He utilised his time to encourage graduates to chase their personal Super Bowl.

Words of wisdom: “As Red Raiders, we’re constructed to persevere.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Drew University, 2016

Simple theme: The basketball legend known as for a revamping of what we perceive to be the American dream and for a recalibration of expectations for graduates as they strive to be the “hope of the future.” “The initial step toward happiness, dear graduates, is to ignore the hype about you becoming the hope of the future. Yes, you happen to be technically the future, but that is a default setting, not a spiritual calling. Taking on the duty of attempting to repair all the things that is incorrect with the globe leads either to hipster cynicism about how all the things is as well corrupt to repair, or depression at attaining only incremental gains.”

Funniest line: “Spring is the glorious time of year when overcoats are packed away and persons start off to really feel hopeful about the future. Lilacs are in bloom, really like is in the air, and colleges and universities invite good results stories like me to stand behind fancy podiums to convince parents and graduates that your education was worth the outrageous value.”

Words of wisdom: “Every generation have to customize the American dream to match their personal situations and the realities of the globe about them. Alternatively of advertising a generic dream, we need to have to encourage every single new generation to prioritize their personal values. Polls indicate that, as opposed to earlier generations, millennials see travel as a important aspect of the American dream, as properly as self-employment, and defining close good friends as aspect of their household. This reimagining is precisely what you must be undertaking.”

Muhammad Ali, Harvard University, 1975



Muhammad Ali speaks at Harvard University

The champ gave the graduating class of 1975 a efficiency they will by no means neglect

Simple theme: Heart, friendship and frequent sense. Ali showed off his trademark character and humor whilst delivering a speech focused on really like and compassion for other folks. “Really like can be observed in all elements of life when we realize it. Really like for these whom rely upon a single, really like for these whom a single comes in speak to with in every day life, really like for one’s nation, really like for one’s race, really like for humanity. It can even extend to really like for the smallest creature or insect that lives. If we study the qualities of the heart we will come across that the heart excellent is a loving excellent.”

Funniest line: “I was told that it really is a massive honor to be invited to speak at a spot like Harvard.”

Words of wisdom: “The initial and most significant issue that we all have to attempt to realize is the cultivating of the heart excellent. And there is only a single way to cultivate the heart excellent and that is to come to be extra and extra selfless not selfish, but selfless. What prevents guys from the loving manner is the fall of their self. And the extra we believe of self, the much less we believe of other folks.”

Drew Brees, Loyola University, 2010

Simple theme: Speaking at New Orleans’ Superdome 5 years following Hurricane Katrina, Brees’ message to graduates was to embrace adversity. “I can assure you that you will face adversity along the way, and for most of you it will be the toughest issue you have ever had to face in your life. But I will also inform you that every single productive particular person you meet or speak to will say that it was due to the fact of that adversity that they had been offered the chance to attain new heights that they by no means believed probable.” Brees cited the instance of his shoulder injury suffered as he was heading into the offseason without the need of a contract. “At the time, I believed this is possibly the worst issue that could have ever occurred to me. But now I appear back at it 4 years later, and I say it was possibly a single of the ideal factors that ever occurred to me … due to the fact it brought me to New Orleans.” Brees encouraged graduates to see adversity as an chance to serve other folks, to have gratitude and to appreciate the moment whilst reflecting on the journey from time to time.

Funniest line: “Obtain what you really like to do and figure out a way to get paid for it.”

Words of wisdom: “According to my grandpa, there are 3 sorts of persons in this globe: There are these that make it occur, there are these that watch it occur, and then there are these that wake up a single day and say, ‘What the heck occurred?’ So which a single are you?”

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University, 2016

Simple theme: Coach K, who has been heralded for his motivational and communication capabilities, had a very simple message: Count on good factors and surround oneself with fantastic persons. “Terrific factors never typically occur to a single particular person. They occur to teams,” he mentioned.

Funniest line: “I went into the knee replacement surgery, and I was six feet tall. I looked like a cowboy, pretty bowlegged. And I came back and I am six-1 on my left side and about five-11½ on my proper side. The exciting issue about it is that I did not actually need to have knee replacement surgery, but what it did, it straightened my left leg. My proper leg is nevertheless bowed. So if I was in shorts — not that you’d be seeking at me — and I’d be walking away, I would be the letter D. So, for all you guys that get tattoos and that — c’mon, man.”

Words of wisdom: “Fully grasp that what ever degree you have and what ever degrees you hope to get, there is absolutely nothing extra significant than attitude — and it really is your option. … And so when [you get knocked down], your attitude has got to be, ‘This is not exactly where I am staying, man. We’re having up.'”

Peyton Manning, University of Virginia, 2014

Simple theme: Manning gave suggestions to graduates on how to break into the functioning globe as a rookie. It was fitting that the former NFL quarterback, who was recognized for his superior preparation capabilities, told the graduates that there was “no way to overprepare for your future.” “Have a formidable strategy. Have a backup strategy, and have a backup to your backup strategy.” Manning also stated that the sheer quantity of graduates nationwide has the opportunity to shake up the workplace by influencing alter. He challenged them to challenge executives and leaders to make choices not primarily based solely on the bottom line, but what is ideal for your neighborhood.

Funniest line: “We’re having beat 21-, and my coach turns to me and says, ‘Peyton, you happen to be going in.’ … So I am jogging into that huddle and I remembered some thing that my dad told me. He mentioned, ‘Son, if you get into the huddle with the starters at any point of the season … you take manage of that huddle.’ … And I get into that huddle and I mentioned, ‘All proper, guys. I know I am just a freshman, but I can take us down that field, get us a touchdown and get us back in this game. Let’s go!’ Major left tackle, a guy named Jason Layman, about six-five, 330 pounds, grabs me by the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, freshman, shut the blank up and get in touch with the blanking play.’ And I mentioned, ‘Yes, sir.’ That was actually good suggestions from my dad.”

Words of wisdom: “When you happen to be chided for your naïveté — and you will be — remind your critics that an amateur constructed the ark, authorities constructed the Titanic.”

Alex Smith, University of Utah, 2014

Simple theme: Smith took creativity in public speaking to a greater level throughout his commencement speech. He produced 3 crucial points, the initial two becoming about the significance of identifying your weaknesses and embracing new experiences, even even though they may perhaps make you uncomfortable. For his “third prescription” — the Washington Redskins quarterback was awarded an honorary doctorate — Smith had every person in attendance stand up, boo and hurl insults at him. That illustrated his early hardships as an NFL quarterback, with some labeling the former No. 1 draft choose as a bust. His message: “Accept what you can not manage. We can only manage how we react and how we respond.”

Funniest line: [In talking about his senior year of high school, where his father also was his principal] “On a side note, he had also signed me up for these Rotary speech competitions. And aspect of the criteria for these competitions was that it had to be an original oratory. … Funny story, correct story, the subject for my speech was — overpaid experienced athletes.”

Words of wisdom: “We are not operating for most well-known. Alternatively, encourage you all to run for most respected. Unless Ray Lewis is chasing you. Then I encourage you to run for your life.”

Mike Tomlin, Robert Morris University, 2017

Simple theme: The Pittsburgh Steelers coach’s message centered about 3 “nuggets of truth” that he mentioned he tries to reside out day-to-day. They incorporate pursuing your passions, trusting your preparation regardless of your feelings — “Never let damaging feelings paralyze you” — and not succumbing to the stress that awaits. Embrace that stress, Tomlin mentioned. “Stress is ever-present. You happen to be either feeling it, or you happen to be applying it. Me, personally, I opt for to apply it. I challenge you to do the similar.”

Funniest line: “I will proceed with a couple of assumptions. And I comprehend that assumptions are pretty hazardous. There is a cliché about assuming, is not it? It can make Patriots out of you and me.”

Words of wisdom: “I sat exactly where you sit, with a degree in hand, with a tiny bit of uncertainty about what lied ahead. I had possibilities — pretty good possibilities. … There had been discussions about law college and corporate America, a couple of enterprise possibilities that came my way. That day, I had a conversation with my parents and I told them that I was going to take a job coaching wide receivers at Virginia Military Institute for $12,000 annually. [Pause for laughs] That is the response my parents had. [More laughs] Never be shortsighted! Chase your passions.”

Abby Wambach, Barnard College, 2018

Simple theme: Wambach, the retired U.S. soccer star, told the graduates from the all-women’s liberal arts college to not be timid and to accept failure as a suggests of gaining strength. Demand what you really feel you have earned, Wambach urged. Also, she mentioned that ladies have to champion every single other, even when competing for the similar target. “Her victory is your victory. Celebrate it,” she mentioned.

Funniest line: “I identified myself coaching my ten-year-old daughter’s soccer group. I coached them all the way to the championship — hashtag humble brag. A single day I was warming up the group, undertaking a shooting drill. I was telling them a story about when I retired. A single of these tiny girls looked up to me and mentioned, ‘So, what did you retire from?’ And I looked down at her and mentioned, ‘Soccer.’ And she mentioned, ‘Oh, who did you play for?’ And I mentioned, ‘the United States of America.’ And she mentioned, ‘Oh, does that imply you know Alex Morgan?'”

Words of wisdom: “Failure is fuel, fuel is energy.”

Russell Wilson, University of Wisconsin, 2016

Simple theme: Even though Wilson has been criticized for embellishing some details in his speech, his message can not be ignored. Wilson, then the star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, recommended, via his individual experiences, how a single can persevere when life tells you “no.”

Funniest line: “Of course, I am also right here to share some factors I’ve discovered. Issues like, if you happen to be dating a lady that is way out of your league, ask her to marry you. … And if you happen to be playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, and you have got 26 seconds left, and you happen to be down by 4, and it really is second-and-target on their 1-yard line, attempt not to throw an interception. That is purely, purely hypothetical, even though, of course.”

Words of wisdom: “If you know what you happen to be capable of, if you happen to be constantly ready, and you retain factors in viewpoint, then life has a way of turning no into yes.”

Charles Woodson, University of Michigan, 2018

Simple theme: Along with guaranteeing a win more than Ohio State (of course), Woodson emphasized the worth of providing and getting enable, referring to a story about his older brother assisting him as a youngster when Woodson was immobile due to the fact of possessing surgery to appropriate his club feet. “I really feel like for you guys going forward in your life, you happen to be going to be a single of these two persons — you happen to be going to be that youngster sitting there crying about not becoming capable to do some thing, but you happen to be not capable to do it, so you are going to need to have a assisting hand. And then you happen to be going to be that older brother, who is going to continue to attain down and attempt to attain out to enable a person along the way.”

Funniest line: “We’re going to come back to Michigan, and we’re going to construct a massive, wonderful wall on the southern border of Michigan and Ohio so that none of these terrible persons from Ohio can get into Michigan once again. Wait, wait, wait, hold on, hold on, hold on … now if we constructed the wall amongst Michigan and Ohio that suggests me or Desmond [Howard] would not have been capable to come right here. All proper, scratch that.”

Words of wisdom: “I want to leave you guys with a single of my favored quotes of all time, by Bruce Lee … ‘Be like water creating its way via cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall come across a way about or via it. If absolutely nothing inside you stays rigid, outward factors will disclose themselves.'”

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