Super Bowl champs, actors, an astronaut, and cofounder of the Life Is Good brand were among the speakers to appear at local college commencements this year.
Here’s a closer look at what some had to say:
Devin McCourty: The power of positive thinking can change your life. I know changing goals can be scary. You might be doing things for the first time in your family’s history. You may be following in the footsteps of someone great. But do you think we’d be standing here celebrating the 100th year of Paul Robeson’s graduation [from Rutgers] if he let fear and doubt step in the way of being great? Would the Patriots have won six Super Bowls if [coach] Bill [Belichick] would have listened to other people and put [quarterback Tom] Brady back on the bench?
Jason McCourty: Life can take us many directions, up and down, side to side, and back again. But if you center your life in the things that can’t be taken away, if you center your foundation in integrity, honor, love, and faith, it doesn’t really matter what comes your way. These things will carry you through heartache, joy, success, and disaster.
Seven billion people now inhabit this tiny blue marble we call home. As the future of each and every one of those people hangs in the balance … as the future of the Earth itself is uncertain, I hope it is not an overstatement to say this: Graduates, we need you to save the world.
You don’t need to be James Bond. In fact, right now, our world doesn’t need a Bond. Our world doesn’t need a lone hero. … We need people from different disciplines, and walks of life, who are willing to work together, who can rely on one another, who can push forward, united.
When we are young, everyone tells us we need more: more stuff, more money, more education, more clothes, more, more, more. And as we get older, we come to realize that the only thing we need more of is time. Time to do the things you love and time to be with the people you love. Nobody will protect your time but you. You should protect your time with your life. Because, ladies and gentlemen, it is your life.
I want you to go outside after this and I want you to look up at the sky, and hold on to that feeling. Because as you graduate this spring, you may find yourself transitioning from an environment that supports you, that supports individuals with enthusiasm, energy, high hopes, high hopes for themselves and high hopes for the world and idealism.
You may transition to a society that believes everyone has a right to a gun, but not food, health care, and education. … And if this makes you feel a little anxious, you’re right. This would make anyone feel anxious. But I can tell you, you’ve got this.
There is a razor-thin line between you and someone who has a very different set of opportunities and limitations, between you and someone who may never get the chance to sit at a commencement like this. … Now, if you think about that, and you accept that, it brings with it a long line of responsibilities. …
So I invite you today to embrace this responsibility, to see each person’s value and potential despite their background, to have the confidence to listen, really listen to others, to have the conviction to speak up for others, and to have the moral courage to take actions, big and small, to create a more just world for everyone.
You must know that it is your duty to go out and help someone else sit in the seat where you are sitting today. If you don’t have any other goal, if you go to another family member who you know has been struggling or who has really been contemplating whether they want to go back to school … I want you to go to them and say: “You can be me because I was once you. I doubted myself. I didn’t think I was worthy, but with the right support and the right love and the strength, the courage, and the wisdom to survive, you can make it."
I met Rosa Parks in 1957 when I was 17. The next year at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King Jr., and I became part of the movement, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington when I was 23 in 1963. Just think, a few short years ago before you were born, many people of color in America were denied the right to vote simply because of the color of their skin. People were asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap, the number of jelly beans in a jar, but we marched. You march today for others to march tomorrow. So use your education as a nonviolent instrument, a nonviolent tool to change America and help change our world.
Over the years [in Hollywood], I have met the worst kind of people, those with no moral or ethical code. And as I’m sure you’ve read in the news, some whose behavior was outright illegal. In light of all this, it’s easy to adopt a philosophy that one must go along to get along or turn a blind eye to abhorrent behavior.
But believe me when I tell you it was my time here at Haverford that validated and reinforced my belief that life can be lived with a sense of honor, of morality and ethical behavior, characterized by thoughtfulness and sensitivity to others. The lessons that we learn here truly go beyond the walls of a classroom.
These are troubled times. It is our jobs as artists to go ahead and make something positive out of an irritant. It’s our jobs as artists to bring attention to issues — whether they be deep and personal or be overt and political, it is our jobs to shake things up however we see ﬁt. … Don’t worry about ﬁtting in, and don’t hold back.
There is a culture of service fostered here at Neumann University, and I greatly admire that. I live and work at St. Francis Inn, the soup kitchen located in Kensington. Several times a month, I wait for the Neumann van to drive against the rush-hour traffic leaving Philly to come into Philly. Out pile several enthusiastic Neumann students and sometimes Neumann staff. They put on an apron, grab a tray, and they serve the poor, the broken, the addicted, the mentally handicapped, and people with all sorts of modern maladies. …