President Obama speaks at Ohio State University’s spring commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Obama delivered the commencement address before receiving an honorary doctor of law degree.
In the years after they take their diplomas, the majority of the graduating class of 2013 will not remember shaking their dean’s hand or what the weather was like on the day they graduated. Humidity-induced frizzy hair or blisters from new shoes will fade from memory. But if the commencement speaker heard on graduation day is memorable, they will likely remember it for the rest of their lives. Here are 10 commencement speakers that you’d stand a strong chance of actually remembering.
Drew Houston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
At just 30 years old, Drew Houston, founder and CEO of file-sharing service Dropbox, is the youngest commencement speaker in the school’s history. The entrepreneur is a 2005 graduate and will return to his alma mater just eight years after watching his own commencement.
Arianna Huffington: Smith College
The editor in chief of the website and blog bearing her name will speak in front of about 800 graduates and their families at Smith College’s 135th commencement ceremony on May 19. Spectators can expect politics, a dash of humor and, if the Saturday Night Live skit is to be believed, lots of rolled Rs.
Melinda Gates: Duke University
On May 12, the businesswoman, philanthropist and wife of Microsoft’s Bill Gates will take to the podium to address about 1,600 undergraduates and their families. Gates earned her bachelor’s degree from the university in 1986 and went on to receive her MBA a year later. To date, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she started with her husband in 1994, has promised more than $25 billion in grant commitments dedicated to eradicating poverty and improving public health and education.
Steve Wozniak: University of California – Berkeley and High Point University
The Apple co-founder is pulling double duty this graduation season. He addressed graduates at High Point University on May 4, and on May 18, Wozniak will take the stage at the University of California – Berkeley, where he once sat for his own commencement. In 1986, at age 35, he received his undergraduate degree under the alias Rocky Clark, which appears on his diploma since, as he said, “I knew I wouldn’t have time enough to be an A+ student.”
Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly: Bard College
On May 25, former representative Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, will deliver Bard College’s commencement address before about 500 undergraduates. Since her near-fatal attack at a 2011 rally in Tucson, Giffords and Kelly have become committed gun control advocates. This year they formed a political action committee and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to curb gun violence.
Bill Clinton: Howard University and University of Central Florida
Last Thursday, former president Bill Clinton spoke to graduates of University of Central Florida’s College of Health and Public Affairs and Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and on May 14, he is set to speak at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University.
“As a pre-eminent leader, humanitarian and advocate, his extraordinary global work and commitment to public service will inspire the class of 2013 as they prepare to make their mark on the world,” University President Sidney Ribeau said. After his two terms in the White House ended, Clinton hasn’t slowed down, focusing his time on his foundation and serving as a U.N. envoy for recovery efforts following the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake in Haiti.
The Dalai Lama: Tulane
During the Dalai Lama’s address at Tulane, scheduled for May 18, the spiritual leader of Tibet will also receive an honorary doctorate.
“We are honored and excited to host a leader of such universal renown, whose wisdom, humility, kindness and humor have won him worldwide admiration,” Tulane President Scott Cowen said. “Each year we try to make Commencement something our graduates will remember for the rest of their lives. This year, with the participation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I have no doubt we will do just that and more.”
Stephen Colbert: The University of Virginia
Stephen Colbert, a 25-time Emmy nominated television host, will speak on The Lawn at the University of Virginia on May 18. Colbert’s wife, Evelyn McGee Colbert, is a 1985 alumna. If his address is anything like his 2011 speech at Northwestern University, the 3,600 students and their loved ones will be in for a treat.
Oprah Winfrey: Harvard University
On May 30, legendary talk show host and OWN founder Oprah Winfrey will deliver Harvard’s commencement address before about 1,800 students and their families.
“Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories,” Harvard President Drew Faust said. “She has used her extraordinary influence and reach as a force for good in the world, with a constant focus on the importance of educational opportunity and the virtues of serving others.” The talk show host appeared at Harvard last year to interview Lady Gaga on the launch of the musician’s The Born This Way Foundation.
President Obama: Morehouse College, Ohio State University and the Naval Academy
While the president already delivered his speech at The Ohio State University, where he quoted former president Bush’s 2002 address at the university, he will speak at two other graduations, at Morehouse College on May 19 and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he gave his first commencement speech as president in 2009, on the 24th. If you are lucky enough to score a ticket to any of the three graduations, arrive early — security is expected to be tight.
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