Inspiring Words from 12 Wellesley Commencement Speakers

Inspiring Words from 12 Wellesley Commencement Speakers
May 24, 2017

A good commencement speech can be the highlight of a graduation ceremony. A great one can inspire and encourage seniors long after they have left campus.

As the members of the green Class of 2017 count down the days to their commencement on Friday, May 26, they eagerly await the arrival of Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, who will deliver this year’s address, her third at the College. Her first, given at her own graduation, remains one of the best known in Wellesley history. She gave her second in 1992, when she was an attorney and the first lady of Arkansas.

Below is an excerpt from her 1969 speech, the first one given by a student at commencement, and from 11 other Wellesley commencement addresses that continue to inspire members of the campus community. (Four are on NPR’s list of Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.)


Memorable Quotes from Wellesley Commencement Speakers

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69

“And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, 1969

Maya Angelou

“Now the joy begins. Now the work begins. The years of preparation, of tedious study and exciting learning, at last begin to make sense. The jumble of words and the tangle of small and great thoughts begin to take order, and this morning you can see a small portion, an infinitesimal portion, of the map of your future…”

Maya Angelou, 1982

Susan Sontag

“I would urge you to be as imprudent as you dare. Be bold, be bold, be bold.

Susan Sontag, 1983

Barbara Bush

“…believe in something larger than yourself, to get involved in some of the big ideas of our time.”

Barbara Bush, 1990

Nora Ephron ’62

“Be the heroine of your life.”

Nora Ephron ’62, 1996

Oprah Winfrey

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”

Oprah Winfrey, 1997

Toni Morrison

“Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all what you are capable of knowing. You are your own stories and therefore free…”

Toni Morrison, 2004

Ophelia Dahl DS ’94

“Whatever you choose to do with your talents and superb education, employ your imagination broadly, fight hard for the things you believe in, link the near and distant. And wear a helmet whenever possible.”

Ophelia Dahl DS ’94, 2006

Madeleine K. Albright ’59

“Real leadership comes from the quiet nudging of an inner voice. It comes from realizing that the time has come to move beyond preparing to doing.”

Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59, 2007

Susan Lynne Wagner

“As Robert Frost would have written had he been a woman, two roads diverged in a wood, and I took both, and that has made all the difference.”

Susan Lynne Wagner ’82, 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Never ever accept ‘because you are a woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2015

Lulu Chow Wang

“We should all strive to succeed in whatever we do, but success is so much better if shared with others—not at the end of our lives in our wills, but throughout our lives.”

Lulu Chow Wang ’66, 2016