Huffpost Women

13 Bits Of Wisdom From Women At Commencement 2014

Posted: Updated:

From David Foster Wallace's indelible reflection on life and work in 2005, to Sheryl Sandberg asking graduates to "lean in" in 2011, commencement addresses have the power to make a lasting imprint.

This year, it seemed many female commencement speakers weren't just delivering a speech -- they were making a statement. From Jill Abramson speaking to Wake Forest graduates mere days after her ouster from the New York Times, to Cecile Richards addressing sexual assault at a campus central to the national discussion, to Anne-Marie Slaughter bringing men into the "having it all" conversation, these women's words will inspire more than the giddy grads and parents who heard them firsthand.

Here are 13 inspiring, important bits of wisdom from women commencement speakers in 2014:

  • Jill Abramson: You're more resilient than you realize.
    Chris Keane via Getty Images
    "Graduating from Wake Forest means you have experienced success already. And some of you -- and now I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped -- have not gotten the job you really wanted or have received those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know the disappointment of losing or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of... We human beings are a lot more resilient than we often realize." (Wake Forest University)
  • Cecile Richards: Risks make the best opportunities -- so take them often.
    The Washington Post via Getty Images
    "If you hold out for an invitation, chances are good you’ll miss the party. And by the party I mean life. Growing up, Mom always told me: The answer to life is yes. This is the only life you have so make the most of it. Take every opportunity and risk you can. You’ll only regret the things you didn’t do because you were afraid to try." (Barnard College)
  • Katie Couric: You can't be criticized for hard work.
    Leah Puttkammer via Getty Images
    “When I became the anchor of the CBS Evening News, the first woman to do so alone, the critics were harsh and unrelenting. They complained about my hair, my makeup, my clothes, my delivery, even the way I held my hands. Some claimed I lacked gravitas, which I’ve decided is Latin for ‘testicles.’ It wasn't easy. But I kept my head down and I stayed focused because I loved the work ... The best antidote to the naysayers you'll surely encounter along the way is to stay strong, work hard, and put in the time. " (American University and Trinity College)
  • Sandra Bullock: It's the joy that stays with you.
    NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
    "Raise the bar higher. It is noisy out there and for some reason, people want to see you fail. That's not your problem, that is their problem. I only remember the moments where I tried beyond what I thought I could do and I do not remember the failures because I didn't ... Go find your joy. It's what you're going to remember in the end. It's not the worry, it's not the what-ifs. It's the joy that stays with you." (Warren Easton Charter High School)
  • Jennifer Lee, director of "Frozen": Ban self-doubt.
    Jeff Vespa/VF14 via Getty Images
    "While I am someone who stands before you so far from perfect -- there isn't a subway line to perfect from where I live -- I am enough. If I've learned one thing, it's that self doubt is one of the most destructive forces. It makes you defensive instead of open, reactive instead of active. Self doubt is consuming and cruel. And my hope today is that we can all collectively agree to ban it ... Think about all the crazy ways you feel different from everyone else. And now take the judgement out of that. And what you are left with is such a wholly dynamic, inspiring character who could lead an epic story." (University of New Hampshire)
  • Billie Jean King: It's our time.
    Brad Barket via Getty Images
    "This is the century of women. And don't you forget it." (Simmon's College)
  • Michelle Obama: Always be happy; never be satisfied.
    AP
    "You should be so proud, and so happy, and so excited about your futures. But what you shouldn't be is satisfied... See, because we're the lucky ones, and we can never forget that we didn't get where we are today all on our own. We got here today because of so many people who toiled and sweat and bled and died for us -- people like our parents and grandparents and all those who came before them, people who never dreamed of getting a college education themselves but who worked, and saved, and sacrificed so that we could be here today. We owe them." (Dillard University)
  • Zadie Smith: Stay open -- exclusivity is overrated.
    Facebook/The New School
    “Walk down these crowded streets with a smile on your face. Be thankful you get to walk so close to other humans. It’s a privilege. Don’t let your fellow humans be alien to you, and as you get older and perhaps a little less open than you are now, don’t assume that exclusive always and everywhere means better. It may only mean lonelier. There will always be folks hard selling you the life of the few: the private schools, private plans, private islands, private life. They are trying to convince you that hell is other people. Don’t believe it." (The New School)
  • Nancy Pelosi: Know your power.
    Win McNamee via Getty Images
    “Remember this: with the knowledge gained here, you can do anything. You may not be aware of the opportunities that await you, but when those opportunities present themselves, be ready. Be idealistic, be pragmatic, be ready. That’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart in my own experience. Although with my generation, I was inspired by John F. Kennedy, I had no idea I’d go from the kitchen to Congress, from homemaker to House Speaker... My wish is that you know your power to light the future with your ideals and your optimism." (University of California at Berkeley)
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter: Stand up for your right to balance.
    Alonso Nichols/Tufts University
    "When your co-workers, and later your employees, compete as to who can put in the most hours to the day, suggest to them that they must be very inefficient workers. Pity them for not having enough depth and breadth to get a life... Stand up for play -- for the leisure that will renew and recharge you. Stand up for love. Stand up for each other, and equally importantly for those who do not have the privilege that you do. Stand up for their right to have a life of meaningful work that earns them a living and the time and resources to enjoy their lives." (Tufts University)
  • Madeleine Albright: Shine bright like a diamond.
    Dickinson College
    "I hope that you will go forward with confidence, despite the burdens handed down to you by others; that you will employ your talents to keep pace with technology -- while remembering that there is no technological answer to the questions that matter most; that you will take pride in who you are, but leave room for the pride of others; and that by your actions, you will each add luster to Dickinson’s name -- and to your own." (Dickinson College)
  • Valerie Jarrett: You have the power to reflect your values in your world.
    MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images
    "I do believe that the 21st century workplace must reflect the values and priorities of the 21st century workforce... You all have to have the courage to speak out. You have to advocate for yourself over and over and over again and fight for that balanced life." (Pomona College)
  • Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO: The "right" choice doesn't always exist.
    Facebook/Johns Hopkins University
    "Life doesn't offer you the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Opportunities come when you least expect them ... Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. 'Here, open it, it's perfect. You'll love it.' Opportunities -- the good ones -- are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They're risky. They challenge you. But things happen so fast because our world is changing so much, you have to make decisions without perfect information. You have to make decisions based on the fact that the world is going to continue to change -- on the belief that the status quo will be supplanted by something better. " (Johns Hopkins University)

Also on HuffPost:

Close
7 Influential Women Who Failed Before They Succeeded
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction