Secretary of State John Kerry returned to his alma mater of Yale University on Sunday to take a swipe at disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
"You are graduating today as the most diverse class in Yale's long history," Kerry said. "Or, as it's called in the NBA, Donald Sterling's worst nightmare." According to the Associated Press, the comment drew laughs from the crowd, which included graduates from 61 countries.
Kerry's zinger was one many memorable moments from the 2014 crop of commencement speeches.
At Howard University earlier this month, music mogul Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs quoted the late rapper Biggie Smalls in his speech to graduates.
“It was all a dream," Combs said in his speech on May 10. "I used to read Word Up magazine.”
Combs, who left Howard before earning his bachelor’s degree, recalled his time at the historically black college.
“My mind was blown when I saw so many beautiful shades of brown," Combs said. "I never heard so many accents, never seen so many beautiful women — and we all know Howard has the most beautiful, intelligent women in the world.”
On Friday, first lady Michelle Obama gave an impassioned speech on diversity to high school graduates in Topeka, Kansas, where the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case started.
“You all are the living, breathing legacy of this case,” Obama said. “Many districts in this country have pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools. Many communities have become less diverse."
Obama also delivered the commencement address to graduates of Dillard University in New Orleans.
“No dream is too big, no vision is too bold," she said on May 10. "As long as we stay hungry for education and let that hunger be our North Star, there is nothing, graduates, nothing, that we cannot achieve.”
At at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sunday, Bill Nye had a similar message for graduates: "Change the world."
"I'm not kidding. Change the world in new, exciting and big ways," Nye, better known as "The Science Guy," said. "Keep reaching. Keep seeking. Keep using your abilities to bring out the best in those around you, and let them bring out the best in you."
Nye also railed against climate-change deniers. "Conspiracy theories are for lazy people," he said. "People that don't want to get down to the business at hand. ... Instead of just doing less, we have to find ways of doing more with less. That's the key to the future." Also, he added, "if you smell fresh paint, don't walk under the ladder."
Attorney General Eric Holder also brought up the Sterling scandal in a speech to graduates at Morgan State University in Baltimore on Saturday, saying "subtle racism" still exists in the United States.
“Over the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen occasional, jarring reminders of the discrimination and the isolated, repugnant, racist views,” Holder said. “These outbursts of bigotry, while deplorable, are not the true markers of the struggle that still must be waged. ... The greatest threats do not announce themselves in screaming headlines. They are more subtle. They cut deeper.”
On May 3, Vice President Joe Biden delivered the commencement speech at Miami Dade College in Florida, the nation's largest community college.
“My name is Joe Biden, I am Jill Biden’s husband," Biden joked. "On every community college campus, that’s how I’m known.” (In her own commencement speech at Villanova, Jill Biden told the graduating class, "Show your heart to the world.")
The vice president then urged Congress to act on immigration reform. “It’s time to get done what an overwhelming number of Americans want to do," Biden said. “Act now and take these people out of the shadows.”
Jill Abramson, who was fired as executive editor of the New York Times last week, honored her commitment to speak at Wake Forest's graduation on Monday.
"What's next for me? I don't know," Abramson said. "So I'm in the same boat as many of you!"
Puff Daddy was among several unconventional choices for commencement speakers.
On May 10, Tiger Woods’s ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, received a roar of applause from Rollins College graduates when she mentioned her divorce.
“When I entered my student adviser's office in the fall of 2005, I was 25 years old. I had just recently moved to America. I was married without children,” Nordegren said, according to ABC News. “Today, nine years later, I’m a proud American, and I have two beautiful children — but I’m no longer married.
"It was right after I had taken Communication and the Media" class, she said, "I was unexpectedly thrust into the media limelight. And I probably should have taken more notes in that class."
At the University of Colorado Boulder, the May 9 commencement speech was delivered by Eric Stough, animation director for Comedy Central's "South Park" and a CU grad.
"Good morning, class of 2014," Stough, better known as the voice of several characters on the show, said. "As Mr. Hankey, the Christmas poo, would say, 'Howdy ho!'"
Stough, the voice of "Butters," also had a serious message for graduates about to enter the real world: "We need you. Your diploma is an inanimate object, so be the animator, and bring it to life."
- Arts & Entertainment
- Michelle Obama
- Donald Sterling
- Howard University
- Yale University
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Puff Daddy