As the mindfulness movement continues to gain momentum, graduation speeches are reflecting an increase in mindful focus, calling on the power of authenticity. These stories and advice are shifting away from the merits and benefits of material success, toward finding internal happiness and the value of a truly compassionate society.
These six stood out to us, in terms of the speaker’s focus on values, cultivating awareness, and transforming society for the better, beginning with the self.
6. Michelle Obama, Tuskegee University, 2015
Michelle Obama’s success in life stands on its own. Speaking graduates of Tuskegee University, a historically black college, she acknowledges racial injustice, still occurring throughout the world. She then offers some mindful advice she’s learned in her role as first lady:
"…ignore all of the noise.…some folks criticize my choices for not being bold enough, but these were my choices…and I decided to tackle them in a way that felt most authentic to me."
5. Parker Palmer, Naropa University, 2015
Author and activist Parker Palmer, a well-known Quaker speaking at a Buddhist-inspired university, stresses that we should measure worth by a standard of faithfulness, more than effectiveness:
"Faithfulness to your gifts, faithfulness to your perception of the needs of the world, and faithfulness to offering your gifts to whatever needs are within your reach," is the focus he offers Naropa University graduates to achieve future impact. He adds encouragement to "take on big jobs that need doing" and to "embrace brokenness as an integral part of life."
4. Shiza Shahid, CEO/Founder of the Malala Fund, NW University, Qatar, 2015
Shiza Shahid is the founder of The Malala Fund inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, and dedicated to providing all girls at least 12 years of education. Shahid shows how, through a mindful upbringing, she learned to apply her skills and talents where the most impact could be made. She encourages Northwestern University in Qatar graduates to do the same. The inspirational highlight of Shahid’s speech is her life story—an extraordinary example of a young woman using a courageous, mindful perspective to transform her world, starting with herself and her situation.
3. John Mackey, Bentley College, 2008
John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, advises Bentley graduates to follow their hearts mindfully, entailing two prerequisites:
First, "…develop our self-awareness skills so that we can know when we are truly following our hearts and when we’ve lost our way." Secondly, "…learn how to deal with fear…which prevents most people from reaching their fullest potential."
Read John Mackey's commencement address on the Whole Foods Market blog.
2. Dalai Lama, Tulane University, 2013
Perhaps one of the most prevalent and outspoken sources of mindful guidance and inspiration, His Holiness the Dalai Lama talks to Tulane University graduates about cultivating inner peace on a global level.
"Through inner peace, all your profession, knowledge, can be constructive…In order to create a sense of global responsibility, it is extremely important to develop a concept of oneness of humanity."
Read the Dalai Lama's commencement address to Tulane University.
1. Jim Carrey, Maharishi University of Management, May 24th, 2014
Everyone expects a commencement address from Jim Carrey to be funny. What people may not have anticipated was that, along with the laughs, he uses mindful traditions and concepts to illustrate his views on following a path of "risky wisdom." Carrey entertains Maharishi University of Management grads with quips about Hindu and Transcendental Meditation, but highlights his advice with more serious direction on risk,
"You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."
Do you have any favorite "mindful" graduation speeches? Share them in the comments below!