From Oprah Winfrey to Tim Cook, Leaders Offer Gems of Wisdom to the Class of 2018 Inspiration from luminaries and leaders of the world.

By Nina Zipkin

Kevin Mazur | Getty Images

It's commencement season, which means that a whole new crop of newly minted adults are headed into the workplace, or maybe on the verge of starting the next big thing that will change the world. Luminaries from the worlds of business, politics, sports, science and entertainment have gotten behind the podium at venerable educational institutions to impart some advice to the class of 2018.

Here are some of their most resonant pieces of advice.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at Duke University

"Don't just accept the world you inherit today. Don't just accept the status quo. No big challenge has ever been solved, and no lasting improvement has ever been achieved, unless people dare to try something different. Dare to think different."

Read more: Get Inspired By Tim Cook's 2018 Duke University Commencement Speech

Oprah Winfrey at USC Annenberg

"The question is: What are you willing to stand for? That question is going to follow you throughout your life. And here's how you answer it. You put your honor where your mouth is...When you give your word, keep it. Show up. Do the work. Get your hands dirty. And then you'll begin to draw strength from the understanding that history is still being written. You're writing it every day. The wheels still in spin. And what you do or what you don't do will be a part of it. You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything."

Read more: Watch Oprah Winfrey's Empowering 2018 USC Commencement Speech (Transcript)

Chance the Rapper at Dillard University

"I realized that all of us have a responsibility to be greater than the people who came before us. We have a responsibility to be not as good as them or live up to their example, but to actually surpass them, even when it seems scary. We have to overcome that fear and be greater than our role models."

Actor Chadwick Boseman at Howard University

"Purpose is an essential element of you…It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Yale University

"Everyone gets knocked down, what matters is whether you get up and keep going … you will make mistakes in life, you will even fail, it happens to all of us no matter how qualified and capable we are. Take it from me."

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman at Rutgers University-Brunswick

"Don't underestimate your power to make a difference … Every one of you can help repair the world. Don't sell yourself short, and don't sell the world short. We need you.''

President Jimmy Carter at Liberty University

"Every one of us decides, "This is the kind of person I choose to be.' We're the ones who decide, "Do I hate or am I filled with love … do I think only about myself or do I care for others?' … There are no limits to our ambitions as human beings."

Actor Michael Keaton at Kent State.

"Don't ever live in your false self. Always live in your real self, because the absolute freedom of not worrying about what other people think is indescribable and worth all the effort that you put into it."

Singer Josh Groban at High Point University

"You learn with experience that some fear is the good stuff. Not all. But when the fear comes from a place of wanting to follow through with passion -- something you believe in, it's good. When it comes to your future experiences, as you enter the world with your knowledge and excitement, as you choose opportunities, always remember: if you aren't scared, be worried."

Actor Queen Latifah at Rutgers University-Newark

"Be your own role model… . Home is what shapes you, but you have a responsibility to your home, too. Be a citizen. Take a chance on that next kid who comes along the way, the way someone took a chance on you, the way someone took a chance on me."

Former NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison at Creighton University

"We have incredible capabilities right now. We have the ability include all our cohabitants in the bounty of this planet, the beauty of this world. We have to open our arms to the best possibilities inside of us. We can't shy away from things, we have to live deeply. We have to connect to the spiritual and the emotional. We are not our complete selves if we deny that."

FIFA World Cup Champion and Gold Medal Olympian Abby Wambach at Barnard College

"Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel... . We must embrace failure as our fuel instead of accepting it as our destruction."

L.L. Bean CEO and President Stephen Smith at Dickinson College

"Think about your life as a journey, and actively think about adding experiences as you move through the next exciting chapters of your lives… . Don't be afraid to move forward, backward, sideways to add new skills, experiences and fulfillment. Equally important, don't always be on a quest to add. Slow down sometimes. Take the time to reflect upon what you already have and how you want to use old skills or find moments when you had an experience you want to replicate."
Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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