10 Famous Commencement Speeches


Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon, 2008

randyn pausch, carnegie mellon
Just two months after delivering this speech to graduates of Carnegie Mellon, Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008. Carnegie Mellon University

"It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. I've done a lot of really stupid things and none of them bother me."

The keynote speaker at Carnegie Mellon University's 2008 commencement ceremony was former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, but Randy Pausch's surprise address stole the show. Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, had months earlier delivered "The Last Lecture" after being diagnosed with a fast-moving pancreatic cancer. His memorable and moving message intended for his students went viral, sparked worldwide interest in his condition and later became a book.

In Pausch's commencement speech, which was based on "The Last Lecture," he spoke of his love for Carnegie Mellon. He delivered the address three months after doctors predicted he would be dead and detailed what he'd learned about living. In typically humorous fashion, he asked students to seek respect from their peers, to form loving relationships with the people they held most dear and to follow their passions.

"If there is anything I have learned in my life, you will not find that passion in things. And you will not find that passion in money." Instead, he implored the audience to ground their passion in people [source: Carnegie Mellon].

As he exited the podium, Pausch kissed his wife and carried her offstage to the sounds of a cheering crowd [source: Carnegie Mellon, Carnegie Mellon].