Quotes from 18 Memorable Wellesley Commencement Speeches, in Celebration of the Class of 2018

Head shots for 18 Wellesley Commencement speakers on a blue background
May 25, 2018

Let the countdown begin! On Friday, June 1, the members of the purple class of 2018 will celebrate the 140th commencement exercises with their friends and family. The class chose Tracy K. Smith, U.S. poet laureate and the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University, to deliver this year’s address.

Smith’s work explores a diverse range of topics, from faith and loss, to dystopia and Afrofuturism, to deep space and life on other planets, to America’s troubled racial history and the legacy of slavery. In her role as poet laureate, Smith aims to expand the audience for poetry through rural outreach, traveling to communities writers might not usually visit.

In celebration of the class of 2018, and back by popular demand, here are quotes from 18 inspiring, thoughtful speeches delivered to Wellesley graduates by remarkable women. (Seven made NPR’s list of Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.)


18 of Wellesley’s Most Memorable Commencement Quotes

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69

“And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, 1969

Maya Angelou

“Now the joy begins. Now the work begins. The years of preparation, of tedious study and exciting learning, at last begin to make sense. The jumble of words and the tangle of small and great thoughts begin to take order, and this morning you can see a small portion, an infinitesimal portion, of the map of your future…”

Maya Angelou, 1982

Susan Sontag

“I would urge you to be as imprudent as you dare. Be bold, be bold, be bold.

Susan Sontag, 1983

Barbara Bush

“…believe in something larger than yourself, to get involved in some of the big ideas of our time.”

Barbara Bush, 1990

Madeleine L'Engle

“If we choose to remain ourselves, full of potential, then we can take whatever happens and redeem it by openness, courage, and willingness to move on.”

Madeleine L’Engle, 1991

Gloria Steinem

“No one can give us power. If we aren't part of the process of taking it, we won't be strong enough to use it.”

Gloria Steinem, 1993

Cokie Roberts ’64

“I think that it is important to look at the long view as you go out of here and realize that there's a long time ahead, and there is time to see it all, to do it all, and to do it in ways that make you proud and happy in the end.”

Cokie Roberts ’64, 1994

Nora Ephron ’62

“Be the heroine of your life.”

Nora Ephron ’62, 1996

Oprah Winfrey

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”

Oprah Winfrey, 1997

Pamela Melroy ’83

“With each success you become harder to stop. In this equation, the mass is YOU, your mind, your heart, your will, and your talents, which will continue to grow as you learn.”

Pamela Melroy ’83, 1998

Toni Morrison

“Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all what you are capable of knowing. You are your own stories and therefore free…”

Toni Morrison, 2004

Ophelia Dahl DS ’94

“Whatever you choose to do with your talents and superb education, employ your imagination broadly, fight hard for the things you believe in, link the near and distant. And wear a helmet whenever possible.”

Ophelia Dahl DS ’94, 2006

Madeleine K. Albright ’59

“Real leadership comes from the quiet nudging of an inner voice. It comes from realizing that the time has come to move beyond preparing to doing.”

Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59, 2007

Melissa Harris-Perry

“Be ignorant, and silent, and thick. But don't do it alone. You cannot be brave all by yourself.”

Melissa Harris-Perry, 2012

Susan Lynne Wagner

“As Robert Frost would have written had he been a woman, two roads diverged in a wood, and I took both, and that has made all the difference.”

Susan Lynne Wagner ’82, 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Never ever accept ‘because you are a woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2015

Lulu Chow Wang

“We should all strive to succeed in whatever we do, but success is so much better if shared with others—not at the end of our lives in our wills, but throughout our lives.”

Lulu Chow Wang ’66, 2016

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69

“Double down on your passions. Be bold. Try, fail, try again, lean on each other, hold on to your values, and never, never, never give up. I believe in you. With all my heart, I believe in you.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, 2017