66 Inspirational, Motivational Quotes to Congratulate Your New Graduate

66 Inspirational, Motivational Quotes to Congratulate Your New Graduate

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"Congratulations" can only relay so much of the tremendous pride and love you have for your new grad.

We know crafting the perfect graduation message can be daunting. So, we turned to the wise words of commencement speakers who have shared their advice, knowledge, and humor with students on their graduation day.

Here are 66 of our favorite commencement speech quotes — ranging from the secrets to success (hint: there isn't just one!) to how to make a lasting impact on humanity (sometimes they're one and the same) to not-so-subtly giving mom and dad some major props. (Good one, guys.)

Funny Graduation Quotes

  1. "The unfortunate, yet truly exciting, thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective." - Jon Stewart
  2. "Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost, and you see a path; then by all means, you should follow that." - Ellen Degeneres
  3. "So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you're on the right track." - Ed Helms
  4. "So be wise because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would." - Neil Gaiman
  5. "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

Proud and Meaningful Graduation Quotes

  1. "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels." - Maya Angelou
  2. "Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single day until you reach your goal." - Ava DuVernay
  3. "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." - Albert Schweitzer
  4. "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney
  5. "Women are the real architects of society." - Cher
  6. "The future is always uncertain, but we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down." - Tom Hanks

Graduation Quotes About Friendship

  1. "Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own." - Amy Poehler, 2011, Harvard University
  2. "If you can, fall in love, with the work, with people you work with, with your dreams and their dreams. Whatever it was that got you to this school, don't let it go. Whatever kept you here, don't let that go. Believe in your friends. Believe that what you and your friends have to say." - Robert Krulwich, Berkeley Journalism School, 2011
  3. "Err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been." - George Saunders, 2013, Syracuse University

Gratitude and Kindness Graduation Quotes

  1. "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." - Zadie Smith, The New School, 2014
  2. "A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you. Also, remember who paid your tuition." - Ben Bernanke, 2013, Princeton University
  3. "I celebrate you as you remember the power of grace and pride, and I challenge you to choose freedom over fear." - Janelle Monáe, Dillard University, 2017
  4. "I hope you'll understand the power you have to change our lives. Change the world." - Ronan Farrow, 2012, Dominican University of California
  5. "I have learned that learning is a passion that must not diminish with years. That applies to memory as well. It needs to be shared, lest it remains stifled, icy, silent." - Elie Wiesel, 2006, Dartmouth College
  6. "Don't be so connected to everybody that you're not truly connected to anybody. Or to yourself. And don't get so caught up in your busy life that life's mystery passes you by. Bring joy and gratitude into every moment — even the tough ones." - Arianna Huffington, 2015, Vassar College
  7. "The world does indeed await you, and humanity is impatient for your service. Take good care of that responsibility. Everything depends upon it." - John McCain, 2006, Liberty University
  8. "You all have opportunities and skills and education that so many folks who came before you never could have dreamed of. So just imagine the kind of impact that you're going to make." - Michelle Obama, Dillard University, 2014
  9. "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better." - J.K. Rowling, Harvard, 2008
  10. "As you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in. Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wellesley College, 2015
  11. "Our problems are manmade -- therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable. And we believe they can do it again." - John F. Kennedy, American University, 1963
  12. "Let's give everyone the freedom to pursue their purpose -- not only because it's the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we're all better for it." - Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard, 2017
  13. "Will you be a spectator or a citizen? To make a difference in this world, you must be involved. By serving a higher calling here or abroad, you'll make your lives richer and build a more hopeful future for our world." - George W. Bush, 2005, Calvin College
  14. "Being smart and rich are lucky. But being curious and compassionate will save your ass." - Mary Karr, 2015, Syracuse University
  15. "Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice." - Jeff Bezos, Princeton, 2010
  16. "Ease up on yourselves. Have some compassion for yourself as well as for others. There's no such thing as perfection, and life is not a race." - Doug Marlette, 2005, Durham Academy
  17. "Sometimes that's the only thing that's important really, is just letting each other know we're here, reminding each other that we're part of a larger self." - Jim Carey, Maharishi University of Management, 2014


Graduation Quotes About Individuality

  1. "Be the left shark." - Meredith Vieira, 2015, Boston University
  2. "Today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality." - Conan O'Brien, 2011, Dartmouth College
  3. "Dig as deep as you have to, and rise as high as you can. Keep your passion. Make mistakes and learn from them. Honor curiosity and follow it. And, in everything you do, recognize the individuals in the other." - Alice Greenwald, 2007, Sarah Lawrence College
  4. "It is the hard days--the times that challenge you to your very core--that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive." - Sheryl Sandberg, UC Berkley, 2016

Graduation Quotes About Growth

  1. "The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives." - Nora Ephron, Wellesley, 1996
  2. "Right now, everything looks impossible. Think back when you applied to be here. How many bodies did you crawl over to get here, for one thing? You're extraordinary just by getting in here." - David Carr, 2014, University of California at Berkeley, School of Journalism
  3. "You are no longer students. You are no longer works in progress. You are now citizens of the real world. You have a responsibility to become a person worthy of joining and contributing to society. Because who you are today ... that's who you are. So be brave. Be amazing. Be worthy." - Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth College, 2014
  4. "It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really is the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now. I wish you way more than luck." - David Foster Wallace, 2005, Kenyon College
  5. "You have a first-class education from a first-class school. And so you need not, probably cannot, live a 'paint-by-numbers' life. Decisions are not irrevocable. Choices do come back." - Barbara Bush, Wellesley College, 1990
  6. "We might ask ourselves, what tools do we have? What can we count on? You can count on yourself. Believe me, your self is your best ally. You know who you are, even when sometimes it becomes a little blurry and you make mistakes or seem to be veering off, just go deeper. You know who you are." - Patti Smith, Pratt, 2010
  7. "Congratulations on successfully completing Act 1. There'll be a brief intermission, and then it's time to start enjoying Act 2." - Adam Savage, 2012, Sarah Lawrence College
  8. "You can't exchange your degree for cash. You can't have a degree audition or interview for you. You can not eat it. Please don't make love to it. You can maybe smoke it but I wouldn't advise it." - Charlie Day, 2014, Merrimack College

Graduation Quotes About Happiness and Success

  1. "Believe anything is possible and then work like hell to make it happen." - Julianna Margulies, 2010, Sarah Lawrence College
  2. "When people tell you not to believe in your dreams, and they say 'Why?' Say, 'Why not?'" - Billie Jean King, 2000, University of Massachusetts
  3. "I believe we're shaped by our failures, by our weaknesses and setbacks, at least as much as we are by our successes. In many cases, those failures make ultimate success possible." - Terry Gross, 2014, Bryn Mawr College
  4. "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." - Steve Jobs, Stanford, 2005
  5. "Success is a lot like a bright white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you're desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it. Know that your mistakes are your own unique way of getting to where you need to be." - Conan O'Brien, Harvard, 2000
  6. "Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn't know that because the 1,001st was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success." - Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania, 2011
  7. "Pursuing your dream, I believe that is the path you should follow; that is why you have the dream to be on the road that you should be on. If you follow that road, you might not end up at your dream, but you will end up doing something that gives you immense satisfaction." - Lewis Black, UCSD, 2013
  8. "I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it." - Joan Didion, 1975, University of California, Riverside
  9. "For the most important decisions in your life, trust your intuition, and then work with everything you have to prove it right." - Tim Cook, 2010, Auburn University


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Graduation Quotes About The Journey

  1. "There's only one of you and maybe you're not going to follow the path that other people would like to put you on, but that's okay. You're going to find the path that's right for you." - Meredith Vieira, 2008, Tufts University
  2. "One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life, is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not to the outcome." - Joyce DiDonato, Juilliard, 2014 
  3. "Follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else's path, unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path and by all means you should follow that." - Ellen DeGeneres, 2009, Tulane University
  4. "Pursue this life of love with focus and passion and ambition and courage. Give it your all. And that will be your path to true success." - John Legend, 2014, University of Pennsylvania
  5. "I hope you'll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change this world. Because all it takes is one act of service -- one blow against injustice -- to send forth that tiny ripple of hope." - Barack Obama, 2008, Wesleyan University
  6. "You know what makes your heart swift, you know what makes your breath catch your throat, you know what makes your chest tight with anticipation. Go get that!" - Sanjay Gupta, 2012, University of Michigan
  7. "Just because you're here now doesn't mean that's where you're going to end up. It's a great ride. There are so many great things to do and if it's in you, you won't be able to do it any other way." - Whoopi Goldberg, 2011, SCAD
  8. "Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don't listen to the critics and you will figure it out." - Will Ferrell, University of Southern California, 2017
  9. "Rehearsal's over. You're going out there now, you're going to do this thing. How you live matters. You're going to fall down, but the world doesn't care how many times you fall down, as long as it's one fewer than the number of times you get back up." - Aaron Sorkin, Syracuse University, 2012
  10. "You're general, but you're also specific. A citizen and a person, and the person you are is like nobody else on the planet. Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all that you are capable of knowing." - Toni Morrison, 2004, Wellesley College
  11. "Your pockets are full, even if your parents' are empty, and now you've got to figure out what to spend it on. Well, the going rate for change is not cheap." - Bono, University of Pennsylvania, 2004
  12. "Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art." - Neil Gaiman, 2012, The University of the Arts
  13. "No matter what challenges or setbacks or disappointments you may encounter along the way, you will find true success and happiness if you have only one goal, there really is only one, and that is this: to fulfill the highest most truthful expression of yourself as a human being." - Oprah, 2013, Harvard University
  14. "I work in a business where almost everyone is waiting for the next big thing. Sometimes it comes, and sometimes it doesn't. But it doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping." -  Jerry Zucker, 2003, University of Wisconsin Madison


Graduation is a massive achievement. It means the world to a graduate when you share your pride through words, gifts, and celebrations. If you need celebration ideas, make sure to check our complete graduation celebration guide, and don't forget to browse our extensive collection of graduation cards and pop-up bouquets.


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