7 Incredible 2018 Commencement Speeches Delivered by Women

2018 Commencement Speeches by Women

If you are like I am, commencement speeches remind you of what lies ahead and all the potential we hold within us to make a difference in the world. I also love the beautiful nuggets of wisdom that inspire us to do better and to be better.  I have scoured the internet for you and put seven great 2018 Commencement Speeches in one place.  Did I miss a speech that you thought was amazing?  If so – please share it in the comments and let us know why we should watch it too!

  1. Dr. Vanessa Chan:  2018 Commencement Speech to the University of Pennsylvania, Undergraduate Engineers 

“Failure is like Farting. It is natural, we all do it, we just don’t like to admit it.”

Key Lessons:

“Your GPA does not predict future success!”  For all those who have a high GPA, congratulations, you are now an engineer.  For all those graduating with low GPAs, congratulations, you are now an engineer!

  • wipe the slate clean, and measure new things: How many people did I help this month?  How hard did I really work?   These activities will actually help you to succeed, more than a high GPA.
  • Reframe failure – do not let the negative result define you, celebrate the failure instead!  Go out to eat, plan your next big thing and get excited about what you will do next!  These moments are powerful catalysts for change, this is why we celebrate.
  • Don’t be a grump-a-lump. It is really to focus on the negative, but don’t. Find the good around you, fix things you don’t like, lead with joy.
  • Network: Networking is helping others, an investment in you and your future.
  • Save Early – financial flexibility creates options.
  • Find your voice – Biases are not going away, so learn to ask for opportunities, advocate for yourself. Work really really hard to deliver.  Find others for advocate for you and advocate for others.
  • DO your part for diversity, give people opportunities to others that do not look like a perfect version of yourself.
  • Constantly reconfigure – all paths require you to evolve as you travel along.
  • Take the time to say thank you.
  • Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.


  1. Abby Wambach: Barnard College 2018 Commencement Speech

Key Lessons:

  • MAKE FAILURE YOUR FUEL:  Fail up, blow it and win!
  • LEAD FROM THE BENCH :  If you aren’t a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader off the bench.  Wherever you’re put, lead from there
  • CHAMPION EACH OTHER:  Her Victory is your Victory. Celebrate it.  Claim the success for one woman as the collective success for ALL women.
  • DEMAND THE BALL:  Give me the ball! Give me the same pay, give me the microphone, give me the promotion, give me the oval office!


  1. Andrea Mitchell:  University of Pennsylvania 2018 Commencement Speech

Key Lessons:

She arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. Penn was not fully co-educational, it was not clear if a woman could be whatever she desired to become.

She marvels at how many of life’s adventures are as a result of accident not design and advises us to be ready to take advantage of the serendipitous.  Having an education, having confidence to take chances, to explore new paths, and to chase your dreams.

  • Be curious, do not presume to know who you might become, because you will never be done becoming.
  • Be open minded, never stop learning.
  • Be engaged.  Be involved citizens of your neighborhood, your community, your nation, and the world.  Express yourselves through a blog, a book, a painting, or a play.  Listen and learn, but do not be just an observer.  Transform tragedy in to purpose.


  1. Deeksha Malhotra: Duke University 2018 Commencement Speech (Student Speaker) 

Key Lessons:

The more we know, the more we learn, the more questions we will have.  Her example was this:  If ALL you know is a bubble, and the surface area of the bubble is the intersection between what we do know and what we don’t know, then as we learn more and the bubble grows, the surface area of the bubble will grow.  As a result, we will become aware of so much more that we do not know.

We did learn two things:

  • The unending possibilities that come from all we do not know
  • The ability to trust and give, for all we know will come from our community and our collective knowledge


  1. Rita Dove:  Smith College 2018 Commencement Speech

Key Lessons:

Here at graduation, which is a somewhat formal line between childhood and adulthood, a parent may feel inadequate.  Is my child prepared to go out into the world, could we have done something more as parents to prepare them?  There is nothing your parents could have done to better prepare you, they do not know what is waiting for you.  They do not know precisely what you will face in your life.  Since none of know precisely where we are headed, we must make the most of the journey itself.  It matters HOW we conduct ourselves along the way.

The best advice Ms. Rita Dove received from her grandmother was, “As long as your did your best from the inside out, you’ll be alright.” For example, if you have done your homework, really tried to do well, not just enough to get but, but truly gave it your best effort, you’ll be alright.” Later from her parents she was told, which was similar, but stated different, “Did you do the very best you  knew you could do, not just scraping by.”

“Did you do your very best?”

Start with the things you know, and apply what you have learned.  The key to knowledge lies with curiosity and appreciation.


  1. Ellen J. Kullman: Tufts University 2018 Commencement Speech 

Key Lessons:

3 career constants:

  • Skills and creativity – no matter what your career is, it has a half-life, if you are very technical, you will have to continue to learn.Whole industries will come and go, you will have to keep learning.  Collaboration is one the best skills you’ll learn.
  • Resolve to develop yourself as a problem solver, how to break down an issue, how to create a sustainable solution.There is a difference between those that come to work just to get the work done and those that come to solve problems.  The problem solvers are destined for great opportunities.
  • Determine what your personal values are and decide that they are non-negotiable

Values are different than mission.  Mission is WHAT you are doing values are HOW you will do it.

Her personal values are:  Integrity, fairness, putting family first

Values should be your primary ethical and moral compass.  Read your compass as you go along life and and know what it tells you, then follow it.


  1. Ann Winblad:  University of St. Thomas | Minnesota 2018 Commencement Speech

Key Lesson:

Ann Winbald’s speech includes a passage she read from Joan Didion’s essay, “On Self Respect” which is included in Joan’s book, “Slouching toward Bethlehem” I have included it here because it is so powerful and applicable today:

“In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.”