The Most Inspiring Advice from Octavia Spencer's 2017 Commencement Speech

photo credit: Pexels 

photo credit: Pexels 

Octavia Spencer, the actress and author who starred in the monumental film Hidden Figures, and who was named Woman of the Year by Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals, addressed the Kent State graduating class of 2017 earlier this month. 

Taking to the stage, the Oscar winner told the class, "Many of you are filled with relief, exhalation, and perhaps a bit of anticpation for what tomorrow brings."

"Your work to this point is far from unnoticed," she said of the celebration. "It's an achievement that not everyone receives. Remember this feeling... You. Have. Earned. It." 

So what was her best advice for the new graduates? 

"Keep chasing those moments where you discover something new about your voice. Don't ever let that end. Keep your minds and hearts open to life's endless and unforeseeable possibilities," she said. Explaining that, "the best years are very much ahead of you and they can be whatever you want them to be. Your work, your life, your week days and weekends can all be filled with as much meaning as you dictate." 

The actress also warned the crowd against the comparison game, noting that if she had read a list of "25 actresses who broke through by 25," she would have stayed in bed. “I guarantee you that none of them looked like me –none of them,” she said.

“Ignore the silly ’30-under-30′ list that the internet throws at you before you’ve even had your morning cup of coffee,” she said. “Those will be the bane of your existence post-graduation, trust me. Trust me. Comparing yourself to other’s success only slows you down from finding your own.”

"Comparing yourself to other’s success only slows you down from finding your own.”

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As for the fear of the unknown that comes creeping in post-graduation? You're joining a world where there "are no more graduations," she said. "The journey you take now will be lead by you alone. Don't let that scare you. Let that liberate you. No one came here the same way, and you won’t all achieve success the same way.” 

She also maintained: "Don't let anyone define you generation for you. Think big. Show up early. Stay late. And bust your asses. But stay focussed so that your change and growth is intentional. As well as to not let success or failure define their lives. Treat triumph and disaster "just the same," she shared.  


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