By Claire Downs
The final grades are in, the champagne’s popped, and the caps and gowns are rented: it’s graduation season! While most of the class of 2017 has faced boring ceremonies that seem to drone on for hours with name after mispronounced name, some lucky students got the chance to hear wise words of wisdom from some famous commencement speakers. What better way to enter the “real world” than a send off from a celeb?
Whether or not these actors, singers, or politicians actually completed their degrees doesn’t matter – when a celebrity tells you to “never stop learning,” you do it! Beyond the typically impassioned moments, some addresses got political, inspiring walk-outs and protest chants, while others kept the comedy flowing. Here are the most memorable speeches for the Class of 2017.
Will Ferrell Sings “I Will Always Love You”
After mocking his similarities with fellow alum, Rob Kardashian, and speaking from the heart about his career path, Will Ferrell serenaded the USC class of 2017 with his version of Dolly Parton’s hit song.
Notre Dame Students Walk Out on Mike Pence
— WNDU (@WNDU) May 21, 2017
At Mike Pence’s address to Notre Dame students on May 21, loud boos were heard as the Vice President began his speech, before several dozen students left the auditorium in protest. ND originally invited President Trump, but after thousands of students signed a petition against it, the school invited Pence. The planned walkout, which occurred just before Pence decried political correctness on campuses, was a reaction to the VP’s anti-LGBTQ+, anti-immigration, and pro-life stances.
Bethune-Cookman University Students Turn Their Backs on Betsy Devos
— TIME (@TIME) May 10, 2017
Students were not having it when newly appointed Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos took the microphone at the historically Black university. Members of the class of 2017 turned their chairs around and began booing Devos so loudly that her words were almost completely drowned out. The protest didn’t stop, even when the school president stepped in and threatened to mail their diplomas if they continued. Students reportedly acted in response to Devos’ affiliation with President Trump and her remarks against HBCUs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger References All Of His Hits In One Sentence
Arnold has always been an inspiration, but his words at the University of Houston commencement were particularly adorable. Referencing all of our favorite movies, Schwarzenegger said, “None of us can make it alone. None of us. Not even the guy that is talking to you right now, that was the greatest bodybuilder of all times. Not even me, that has been the Terminator and went back in time to save the human race. Not even me that fought and killed predators with his bare hands.”
Kenya Barris Burns Trump
The Black-ish creator had us in stitches his entire hilarious Tufts grad speech, but this savage closer stole the show: “If a C student with a neck tattoo can be giving your commencement speech, and a six-time bankrupt former steak-selling reality star can be president of the United States, then, literally, anything is possible. So go out and make it happen!”
Oprah Bragged About Her Shoe Closet Before Lifting Everyone Up
There is no speaker on earth more motivational than Oprah. But before giving Agnes Scott College students her pearls of wisdom, she took a second to humble brag about her shoes. “I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life, I’ve made a fortune — really it’s fantastic — from being true to myself and, if I could leave you with any message today, that is it.” The OWN CEO went on, “The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good. You can get a lot of great shoes, nothing wrong with great shoes. But those of you who have a lot of shoes know that having great shoes and a closet full of shoes or cars or houses or square footage doesn’t fill up your life. It doesn’t. But living a live of substance can.”
Dame Helen Mirren Tells Dads to Stop Googling Her Nudes
The grand dame of British films had a lot of great advice for Tulane grads such as, “don’t jump into shallow pools,” and “nothing good can come from tweeting at 3:00AM.” But her biggest laugh came when she reminded the crowd of her earlier works: “Today’s speech will contain advice for any of you born in England who decide to become Shakespearean actresses, and end up doing nude scenes in 10 films. I mentioned that just to see if any of your fathers are getting out their cellphones now to Google me. Dads. Stop. Inappropriate. Put it away. I mean the phone!”
Octavia Spencer Compares Current Event to Hidden Figures
The Oscar-winning actress was glowing during her Kent State address this month. But her stand-out quote from her speech connected her most recent film to today, “Taraji, Janelle and I portrayed women who worked for NASA at a time at best can be described as turbulent crossroads of our history.” She went on, “They responded to that tumultuous time and made efforts to quiet their voices by rolling up their sleeves and doing the work and I think that’s fair to say that we’re in a similar period right now. No matter where your values lie, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves just like Dorothy Vaughan.”
Donald Trump Is “Inspired” Legally Blonde
Donald Trump’s May 13 Liberty University speech reminded us of Elle Woods in final scene of the movie, Legally Blonde, and the internet agreed. Jimmy Fallon made a supercut of the two speeches side by side, and the similarities are hilariously undeniable.
Janelle Monáe Focuses on The Future
Another Hidden Figures star spoke to grads this year, but Janelle’s focus was on what’s next. Speaking about conquering obstacles, the “Tightrope” singer said, “And so on this day graduates of 2017, I celebrate you as you remember the power of grace and pride. And I challenge you to choose freedom over fear.”
Pharrell Fights For Women’s Equality
During the 2017 NYU graduation at Yankee Stadium, Pharrell told students that the “days of being an anonymous participant or activist are over.” But the crowd went wild after he applauded Gen Z for progressive values with this message of female empowerment. “Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principals, and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back.”
Here’s a great throwback moment to that time the entire Harris family came together to celebrate Niq Niq’s graduation from high school.