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Words of wisdom for the Class of 2010

Jenna Johnson

(Updated May 26)

What do you say to a crowd of bright-eyed college graduates who are headed out into the real world? What do they want to hear? Or need to hear?

This month dozens of commencement speakers are taking the podium and sharing words of wisdom with the Class of 2010. Here's what they are saying...

First Lady Michelle Obama
George Washington University, May 16
"You see, as impatient as you may be to get out there and change the world -- and that's a good thing -- you're equally patient for that change to come. As idealistic as all of you may be, what your generation has lived through has also tempered you with a deep realism."

Actor Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock
New York University, May 12
"Share the best of who you are with the next generation."

President Obama
University of Michigan, May 1
"If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life experiences. You'll learn what it's like to walk in somebody else's shoes, and in the process, you will help to make this democracy work."

Catholic University President Very Rev. David M. O'Connell
Catholic University, May 15
"Shakespeare once wrote, "Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon us (Twelfth Night, II, v. 159)." Let's face it: Most of us are not born great. Still fewer of us have greatness thrust upon us. It is for us, the vast majority, to achieve greatness by sacrifice: putting what we have and who we are at the service of others."

Author John Grisham
University of North Carolina, May 9
"Call home at least once a week. It's a proven fact that we call home less frequently the older we get. And that's wrong. It should be the other way around. As we get older, our parents get older. E-mail, Facebook, text, that's all good. Call home once a week so your parents can hear your voice, and you can hear theirs."

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co
Syracuse University, May 16
"Never stop holding yourselves and others accountable."

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Boston University, May 16
"Progress is the product of darkness, not light. It was social frustration, and moral imperative, that brought an end to slavery and segregation... that provided health care for our seniors and our poor. These advancements were not inevitable, and they must never be taken for granted."

Harold McGraw III, The McGraw-Hill Companies chairman, president and CEO
NYU's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, May 13
"During every economic downturn in our history, there have been those who have predicted America's decline. What they all have in common is that they all have been wrong. One lesson is this: If you get too caught up in the short-term, you will for sure lose sight of the larger and more important long-term opportunities for growth - personal and business."

Former President Bill Clinton
Miami Dade College, May 1
"Your identity is important, but your common humanity matters more."

West Virginia University, May 16
"We all have to be in the future business. That's the one little catchphrase that will encompass everything... The future business in the economy means we have to create jobs again. If you're talking about education, you have to figure out how to bring the benefits of education to people who don't come in to colleges and universities."

Argelia Rodriguez, President & CEO, DC College Access Program
Trinity Washington University, May 23
"I implore you to spend the rest of your lives learning. To find your inspiration and have the courage to pursue your passion and to be of value by being of service. This is how you will find true fulfillment and success in life!"

Donna Shalala, University of Miami President, Former Health and Human Services Secretary
American University's School of Public Affairs, May 2010
"I believe in this new century: Where the burden of history -- and the yoke of disease -- is finally lifted from our children. Where every child can grab the baton of education and sprint to a prosperous future. Where equality and economic opportunity are a certainty -- and intolerance a long ago memory."

Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post columnist
St. Mary's College of Maryland, May 18
"I'm so impressed with how the students at St. Mary's College have learned critical thinking," said Robinson in his address. "You might get the idea that thinking is a dying art listening to TV pundits. Now we have "magical" thinking: bumper sticker thinking. The problems of our country require sharp and forward, long-range, thinking. We cannot run this country on bumper sticker thinking."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah
Southern Utah University, May 1
"You're going to a world that will be very, very different from the somewhat protected world of a college campus. You're going to be facing a world where there is no textbook that you can turn to to find the answers and challenges that will call upon everything that you have learned while you are here -- not specifically facts, but skills."

J. Noah Brown, Association of Community College Trustees President and CEO
Mott Community College (Flint, Mich.), May 1
"The term commencement means beginning. Remember that the next rung in the ladder awaits you. Be prepared to learn everything you can."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame
Oklahoma Christian University, April 30
"Education is only as good as the character of the person who receives it... Education is a particularly powerful tool that empowers people to do things for themselves."

I plan to add more quotes as graduation season progresses. Were you moved by a commencement speech? Send me a link and I will add it.

Follow Campus Overload all day, every day at http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. Check out our new Higher Education page, follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  May 17, 2010; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  Real World  | Tags: Boston University, George Washington, NYU, Syracuse University, UNC, University of Michigan  
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