Celeb class of 2018: See Sterling K. Brown, Mindy Kaling, and more in their caps and gowns

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Cue “Pomp and Circumstance” and get ready to hear life advice from some of the most successful celebrities we know. This graduation season, students across the country have heard from Sterling K. Brown, Mindy Kaling, Jimmy Fallon, and more.

Here’s a look at who has spoken at 2018 graduations.

Sterling K. Brown

The This Is Us actor, a Stanford University alum, inspired and challenged grads of his alma mater with his words at a June 17 ceremony. “Class of 2018, it is your time now,” he concluded his speech. “Do me a favor, will ya? Take your light and show us the way.”

Mindy Kaling

“I’ll tell you my secret, the one thing that has kept me going through the years, my superpower: delusion,” Dartmouth College alum Kaling told this year’s crop of grads. “This is something I may share with our president, a fact that is both horrifying and interesting.” After more of the witty banter for which she’s known, Kaling added, “My point is: You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real.”

Jimmy Fallon

The graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were surprised to see the late-night TV show host pop up on their big day. “Most commencement speakers, they’ll get up here and talk in the future tense. ‘You will succeed. You will make us proud. And you will change the world,'” Fallon told the school shooting survivors turned activists. “Most commencement speakers say, ‘You are the future.’ But I’m not going to say that because you’re not the future. You’re the present.”

Hilary Swank

At the Savannah College of Art and Design, two-time Oscar-winner Swank delivered an inspiring commencement address to two groups of scholars donning caps and gowns. “Make a choice. Make it happen. … All that matters is that you make choices every single day to work toward your dream,” Swank urged them.

Ava DuVernay

Students graduating from Cornell University heard from the director of A Wrinkle in Time. “What will be your story? Your movie? You’re the director. You’re free to experience and interpret this life from this moment on as you decide, as you declare,” DuVernay said.

Michael Keaton

At Kent State University’s May 12 graduation, alumnus Keaton celebrated the Class of 2018 with his signature phrase: “I’m Batman.” Listen for it after his speech, when he returns to the podium to accept an honorary degree.


The OWN mogul advised graduates of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to give voice to people without one. “You will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, the insight, and the facts necessary to strike down deceit,” she told them in a May 11 speech that felt a lot like The Oprah Winfrey Show on location.

Chadwick Boseman

On May 12, the Black Panther star spoke to excited students at Howard University, his alma mater, about the importance of finding their purpose, rather than a job, as they bring their talents to the world.

Cynthia Nixon

The New York gubernatorial candidate, best known for playing Miranda in Sex and the City, offered some appreciation for the graduates of the Helene Fuld College of Nursing in New York City on May 4. She talked about the times in her life when nurses have helped her, including the births of her three children and the death of her mother to cancer. Though she mostly kept the spotlight on the graduates and not politics, she managed to throw in a line about her support for health care for all.

Josh Groban

The “You Raise Me Up” singer is one college dropout who’s managed to do pretty well for himself. “I believe that it would be better to fail at doing something challenging, something worthwhile, and something I’m excited to show the world than to succeed doing something safe, something that wouldn’t actually inspire much at all,” he told graduates of High Point University in North Carolina on May 8.

Chance the Rapper

When the artist spoke at Dillard University on May 12, he gave a pop culture-savvy speech featuring Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. He kept the crowd interested, even on a steamy day in New Orleans.

Queen Latifah

The Girls Trip star was super excited about receiving an honorary doctorate from Rutgers University on May 14. “It’s lessons here at home that made me who I am,” the New Jersey native told the crowd. “You may not realize it today, but you will over time that the love you find in family in every size, shape, and makeup is a powerful teacher.”

Ronan Farrow

Remember when Ronan Farrow was known simply as the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen? Well, those days are long gone after his dogged reporting for the New Yorker on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal won him a Pulitzer Prize. Farrow shared with his audience at Loyola Marymount University’s May 5 graduation that many people tried to stop him along the way. He told grads that they would have moments in which they might not know the right thing to do. “And I hope that in that moment you’ll be generous with yourself, but trust that inner voice,” Farrow said.

Jennifer Nettles

Nettles is known for singing, both solo and as part of country duo Sugarland, so it makes sense that she would serenade grads she addressed at Agnes Scott College, outside Atlanta, on May 12. The star, who graduated from the school in 1997, chose to sing a traditional Irish prayer.

Matt Czuchry

The actor, known for his roles on The Good Wife and The Resident, offered a particularly entertaining address. During his speech at the school he graduated from, the College of Charleston, he borrowed a few lines from “My Shot,” a song from Broadway’s “Hamilton.”

John Lithgow

The Third Rock From the Sun actor co-headlined the ceremony at Dominica University with his wife, economic historian Mary Yeager. “You received a splendid education here at Dominican, a major achievement and invaluable asset as you set forth in life,” Lithgow advised. “But it is through your relationships with others that each of you will grow to discover and understand the deepest mystery of life — yourself.”

Benicio Del Toro

The Oscar winner was the featured speaker at the Mercersburg, Pa., high school he graduated from back in 1985. He told grads to have conviction in whatever it is they choose to do.

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