For decades, leaders across various industries have utilized commencement remarks to inspire the next generation of global citizens. However, there has been an exceptional rise in the amount of people who listen to commencement speeches due to social media and the vast network of information sharing. Leaders in their respectable fields have been aware of this trend and, as a result, have used their influence to advocate for social good and encourage the next generation of change-makers to follow their lead and make a difference.
From environmental injustice to discrimination, commencement speakers are righteously inspiring young people to tackle the problems that exist globally, motivating the next cohort of social activists to leverage their education to change the world. Read on to see our favorite social good advice from a few of this year’s top commencement speakers and purpose-driven advocates.
Michael Bloomberg at Harvard Business School
The renowned billionaire of Bloomberg L.P has his own take on social integrity and the importance of good ethics in the systems we live in. Integrity is a concept that people shy away from when discussing issue advocacy. The bigger picture and direct problems people witness are easier to discuss, but Michael challenges the individual to look past the issues and self-reflect on our personal morals and behaviors - why we do what we do.
Wendy Kopp at UC Berkeley
The education trailblazer reminisced about her time as an entrepreneur and starting Teach for America at 21 years old. On behalf of the social activists in the crowd, Kopp challenges them to enter whatever industry they choose to pursue and question the status quo. An individual’s dreams and aspirations may not necessarily be civic engagement, but collaboratively questioning the systemic issues in whatever career they seek will gradually revolutionize the current state of our world.
Robert F. Smith at Morehouse College
Besides the fact that the tech investor and philanthropist went viral by eliminating the class of 2019’s student debt, Dr. Smith is a believer and advocate for “paying it forward.” The understanding of privilege and working your way up from poverty has driven him forward, and because of that he couldn’t preach less than the power of opportunity to the brothers of Morehouse College. To see change happen in respective communities, there must be an investment in those communities to begin with.
Viola Davis at Barnard College
A woman of many talents, the actress and author recognizes that we are a composition of our past; to erase our past is to deny our true selves. Davis gives a powerful remark to the sisters of Barnard College and instills the truth that we are a product of our environment. She goes on to say as a product of our environment, we should carry our experiences and use them to change the course of society. As experts of our own experiences, we can challenge every problem we face with the weapon of our own history. To remember that history ignites truth in a complicated world we live in.
Peggy Noonan at University of Notre Dame
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has a record for being an activist in the presence of injustice and ignorance. From working with Ronald Reagan to writing for the Wall Street Journal, she inspired the next generation of college grads to find their passion and pursue it with an activism mindset. People tend to be complacent with their surroundings, so Noonan pushes the idea of facing discomfort and difference to combat the issues that rule our lives.