Sitting through a graduation ceremony is rarely one of the most fun activities ever, even if you’re among the people chilling in a robe, eager to get that diploma. But as the most inspirational high school graduation speeches prove,
recent grads are breathing new life into these ceremonies. In addition to all the traditional pomp and circumstance, the best high school graduation speeches are humorous, heartfelt, and honest. Seriously, these young adults understand how to work a crowd.
And as you might expect from a group who grew up with social media,
generation Z graduates are poised and confident behind the microphone, delivering speeches with ease. Seriously, it’s stunning to remember these speech-givers are only in their late teens, and possibly addressing a large crowd for the first time. And these speakers aren’t afraid to take on serious topics. In fact, many of the students use their high school graduation speeches to address issues affecting Black and BIPOC communities, LGBTQ representition, and the experiences of immigrant families. The honest emotion and care these young adults have for the wellbeing of others is inspiring. Here are some of the most popular high school graduation speeches YouTube has to offer that are sure to make you laugh and maybe cry a little, too. 1 Dalaney Westbroek on looking to a brighter future
The theme of Dalaney’s speech is “Per aspera ad astra,” which means “through hardships to the stars.” In her address, she reminds her fellow classmates in the class of 2021 that though they’ve seen hardships, like the Covid pandemic, their futures are bright and there are great things to come. She also gets bonus points because she does all of this beautifully, despite the wind blowing her tassel into her eyes throughout the speech – a true example of determination.
2 Alexandra Wayne’s reminder to take the lessons with you
Yes, there are lots of lessons taught throughout high school, but Alexandra points out that some of the most important are the ones that help you discover who you are. In her speech, she encourages her classmates to revisit these lessons as they embark on their new lives in this great big world and to always remember where they came from.
3 Toni Odufuye’s advice to “Give Light”
You can feel the emotion as Toni Odufuye addresses fellow classmates who graduated in 2020. “One kind word or smile can turn someone’s day around and light them up,” said Odufuye. The call to kindness is such an important message for young graduates (and really everyone).
4 Elizabeth Rodriguez’s heartfelt message of thanks & strength
After tearful thanks to her family and educators, Rodriguez talks openly about her prior behavioral issues and mental health struggles. “Everyone’s struggles and story may be different, but I am here to tell you all that you are loved, talented, ambitious, tenacious, and beautiful,” said Rodriguez.
5 Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas’ speech about motivation and migrant culture
“I am motivated by my mother’s hands that are slowly losing feeling from years of arduous work,” said Alvarez-Lagunas. The valedictorian’s moving tribute to her immigrant parents is honest and beautiful. The first in her family to graduate from high school, Alvarez-Lagunas has a unique message about the importance of education.
6 Chase Dahl’s viral message to embrace achievement
In an upbeat speech delivered with plenty of #references to social media, Dahl also dropped some serious words of wisdom. “The opportunity to achieve greatness is within our grasp,” said Dahl.
7 Jocelin Lai’s call to make history
Lai shares serious insight about privilege, the difficulty of existing as a model minority, and the crucial need to fight injustice in a stirring five-minute speech. “We are the people who are responsible for writing the next few chapters in future history books,” said Lai.
8 Evan Young’s delayed (but funny & moving) speech
Evan Young, valedictorian of his 2015 high school class, planned to come out as gay while giving the graduation speech. However, Young was barred from speaking by the school. Two weeks after graduation, Young presented his speech to an appreciative audience during an Out Boulder fundraiser. The topic was secrets, and Young riffed on the English books he didn’t finish and his (extremely relatable) dislike of homework. “When I was writing this speech, I was endlessly debating with myself whether I should reveal this on account of how divisive an issue this is and how gay people tend to be stereotyped and I thought if I did I should immediately apologize and beg you guys not to think any differently of me. But then I realized, I don’t have to... we can still be friends even if we profoundly disagree with each other,” said Young.
9 Peter Bui’s speech that keeps it at 100
“As I look into the crowd though, I see the beauty of people from a variety of cultures and nationalities are all gathered to celebrate our accomplishments,” said Bui. “Despite our differences, we’re all here now in the same place wearing the same goofy robes receiving the same diploma.” Bui delivers the speech with humor and insight, engaging the crowd with ease.
10 Kofi Boakye looks to the future
“It’s not over. It’s just getting started,” said Boakye. The valedictorian stresses the importance of using your own mind to make a real difference in the world.
11 Liam McCoy's ode to new beginnings
Ahead of us is
life. Ahead of us stand all the years we have yet to live,” said McCoy. The valedictorian’s speech perfectly captures that anything-is-possible feeling of graduating high school 12 Evan Barber’s sincere questions about adulthood
“Guys, we’re graduating!” said Barber. “I’m not ready for this. I’m not sure how to be an adult. How do you pay taxes? I think it’s better for your interest rate to be higher, right?” But then the valedictorian goes on to suggest spending your adulthood being kind to others, which is honestly a great start.
13 Carl Aquino’s rubix cube speech
With over 19,008,385 views, this video of Carl Aquino’s 2010 graduation speech is a YouTube classic. By comparing high school to figuring out a Rubix cube (and solving one of the puzzles during the speech), it’s easy to see how Aquino’s speech became such a hit.
14 Akash Salam’s candid reflections on American life
“I struggled a lot more than you think” with fitting in, said salutatorian Akash Salam, whose family immigrated to the United States ten years before Salam presented this speech. “You have opportunities others around the world would die for.” It’s a sincere reflection on the importance of education.
Even if your own graduation was decades ago, you can’t help but be inspired by the hope these young people have and their bright visions for a better world.
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This article was originally published on
May 18, 2018