Access the best commencement speeches ever

NPR launches interactive commencement speech database

commencement-sotwBefore the caps fly, commencement speakers offer graduates words of advice and inspiration for the next phase of life – many of which go on to be shared and appreciated well beyond the original audiences. NPR Ed – NPR’s newly assembled team covering learning and education – launches its online hub today with a celebration of this grand tradition. NPR Ed’s ‘The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever’ interactive pools decades of speeches into a searchable, shareable well of inspiration. Visit NPR Ed now to explore more than 300 addresses and for ongoing education reporting.

‘The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever’ offers addresses dating back to 1774. Famed and lesser-known remarks from actors and entrepreneurs, writers and politicians are all searchable by speaker, college, year and theme (“Dream,” “Play,” “Inner Voice,” “Fight for Equality” and “YOLO”) with links to the full versions of each speech and videos when available. The site also allows users to export a shareable graphic featuring a key quote for any of the speeches. In addition to the online database, a piece on Tuesday’s All Things Considered features a primer on fundamental elements shared by those commencement speeches widely reviewed as “the best,” including two essential ideas: “Congratulations” and “You’re Special. Just remember – so is everyone else.”

This project continues NPR Ed’s reporting, which is dedicated to developing distinctive, in-depth coverage of learning and education. Leading up to its online debut, the NPR Ed team traveled to Tulsa, Okla., for a series of reports examining the city’s ambitions to get “high-quality preschool” right, reported on the unfolding implementation of the Common Core state standards and offered a deep dive into the realities of paying for college. This team – composed of digital and radio journalists – will continue to drive the national dialogue on learning and how learning is evolving through explanatory reporting and rich, impactful storytelling around key issues such as K-12 education (particularly the Common Core state standards), learning and technology, and higher education. It’s committed to using public media’s unique advantages as a network to dive into the local and national nature of education issues and trends. Already listeners have heard pieces from Vermont and Miami paired with reporting from our national team.

With generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wallace Foundation to expand education coverage, NPR assembled a multidisciplinary team to cover the topic, drawing from within and also tapping leading voices outside its walls. Now complete, NPR Ed is led by editor Steve Drummond and includes bloggers Juana Summers and Anya Kamenetz; NPR education correspondents Eric Westervelt and Claudio Sanchez, associate producer Sami Yenigun and senior editor Cory Turner, working also with NPR editorial strategist Matt Thompson and visual journalists including NPR’s photo and video producer John Poole. The bi-coastal team strives to capture what’s happening in learning and education around the country in reports across all NPR shows and platforms, and centralized online at NPR Ed and on Twitter at @npr_ed.

NPR is an award-winning, multimedia news organization and an influential force in American life that reaches 27 million radio listeners each week, and 22 million people monthly on digital platforms. In collaboration with more than 900 independent public radio stations nationwide, NPR strives to create a more informed public – one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit

Laura Ascione

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