13 Memorable Commencement Speeches by MacArthur Fellows

MacArthur Foundation
1 min readMay 27, 2020

In-person graduation ceremonies have been noticeably absent during the COVID-19 outbreak this year. As the pandemic has forced many of us to shift to new schedules and realities, and read as much as we can about the virus and how the outbreak might end, large events such as graduations have been mostly canceled as a public health measure.

Though many ceremonies have moved online, we thought that this graduation season would be a particularly good moment to highlight some timeless commencement speeches that have inspired thousands of graduates over the years. We invite you to watch or listen to these MacArthur Fellows — and to be inspired too.

What’s your favorite graduation speech?

Bryan Stevenson, Johns Hopkins University 2018 Commencement:

Lin-Manuel Miranda, University of Pennsylvania 2016 Commencement:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wellesley College 2015 Commencement:

Ai-jen Poo, Smith College 2019 Commencement:

William Barber, Guilford College 2016 Commencement:

Lateefah Simon, Mills College 2017 Commencement:

Teresita Fernández, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts 2013 Commencement

Jim Yong Kim, Northeastern University 2013 Commencement:

David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College 2005 Commencement:

Claire Chase, Cleveland Institute of Music 2016 Commencement:

Liz Lerman, Bennington College 2018 Commencement:

Atul Gawande, California Institute of Technology 2016 Commencement:

Majora Carter, Knox College 2011 Commencement:



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