10 inspiring commencement speeches from sci-fi and fantasy greats

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Marc Bernardin
Dec 17, 2012

It's that time of year, when colleges and universities all over the country release fresh young minds into the world, allegedly armed for the future. And many of those institutions enlist noteworthy speakers to impart some words of wisdom before they leave. Here are some of the best, from geek-friendly celebs like J.K. Rowling, WIlliam Shatner and Ahnuld.

Sometimes commencement speakers look to inspire the next generation with words of guidance and nuggets of advice. And other times—as with Seth McFarlane and Patton Oswalt—they cloak that guidance and advice in a candy shell of comedy.

J.K. Rowling

Author, The Harry Potter series Harvard University, 2008

Patton Oswalt

Comedian, Author, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
Broad Run High School, 2008

"I was going to roam and blitz and blaze my way all over the planet. Anywhere but here. Anywhere but Northern Virginia. NoVa. You know what a 'nova' is? It's when a white dwarf star gobbles up so much hydrogen from a neighboring star it causes a cataclysmic nuclear explosion. A cosmic event. Well, I was a white dwarf and I was definitely doing my share of gobbling up material. But I didn't feel like any events in my life were cosmic. The 'nova' I lived in was a rural coma sprinkled with chunks of strip mall numbness. I had two stable, loving parents, a sane and wise little brother and I was living in Sugarland Run, whose motto is, 'Ooooh! A bee! Shut the door!' I wanted to explode. I devoured books and movies and music and anything that would kick open windows to other worlds real or imagined."

Click for the rest of the speech.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

University of Alabama, Huntsville, 2010

Steve Jobs

Founder, Apple Computers and Pixar
Stanford University, 2005

J.M. Barrie

Author, Peter Pan
St. Andrew's University, 1922

"Learn as a beginning how world-shaking situations arise and how they may be countered. Doubt all your betters who would deny you that right of partnership. Begin by doubting all such in high places--except, of course, your professors. But doubt all other professors--yet not conceitedly, as some do, with their noses in the air; avoid all such physical risks. If it necessitates your pushing some of us out of our places, still push; you will find it needs some shoving. But the things courage can do! The things that even incompetence can do if it works with singleness of purpose."

Click for the rest of the speech.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Emory University, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut

Author, Slaughterhouse-Five
Albion College, 2002

Seth MacFarlane

Creator-executive producer, Family Guy
Harvard University, 2006

William Shatner

Actor, Priceline commercials
McGill University, 2011

Kim Stanley Robinson

Author, The Mars trilogy
University of California, Berkeley, 2012

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