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The BEST graduation speeches

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From Sheryl Sandberg to Stephen Colbert

One of the most famous pieces of advice for graduates came from Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, in a column titled: "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young." (aka, "The Wear Sunscreen Speech.")

"Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it," Schmich said. "Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine."

From business titans like Sheryl Sandberg and Carl Icahn to celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Sean Combs, there has been some great advice delivered at commencement speeches. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is: Don't treat your job search like dating. Don't think "I shouldn't call right away — I should play it cool and wait a few days."

In those two days you were waiting? Somebody else may have already gotten the job. Send your resume. Follow up by email or phone. Leave the coy behavior for that cute girl from chemistry class.

"I think there is this skills-gap shift we're seeing. Younger people coming out of school are more prepared for the kind of jobs we need in this sort of new economy," said Simply Hired CEO James Beriker. Specifically, how adept they are with technology, which he thinks can be helpful for emerging companies as well as those that are well-established.

His advice for new grads? Don't take the summer off! Too many kids say I'm tired, I need a break — I DESERVE a break. I'll start looking for a job in September. But it's still really competitive out there, so he says better to get a jump on the competition and start over the summer.

As we head into graduation season, a batch of commencement speakers will add their tips to the list. Before we kick our young out of the academic nest, squawking and flapping into the real world, here are some of the best graduation speeches in recent history.

By Cindy Perman
Posted 4 May 2014; Updated 16 May 2016 by Akane Otani

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