50 Inspirational Graduation Quotes For 2023 Graduates

By Chris Kolmar
Jan. 22, 2023

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Summary. When delivering a graduation quote, it’s important to know your audience and pick the placement well. You should also avoid over-doing it with quotes and stick to one or two meaningful quotes for the graduate.

Graduating from school is an exciting accomplishment, but it can also be daunting, as the next chapter of education or a professional career is about to begin.

If you’re looking for an inspiring and motivating quote to share with one graduate or a group of graduates, look no further, as we’ve compiled a list of 50 of these quotes for you to pull from. We’ve also put together a list of tips on how to share these quotes so you can communicate your message as powerfully as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider your audience when choosing a quote to share and choose the quotes and sayings that match their personality.

  • People want to hear your inspiring thoughts too, so don’t overuse quotes — one or two is generally the sweet spot.

  • Practice your delivery of your quote if your giving it in a speech.

50 Inspirational Graduation Quotes for 2022

50 Inspirational and Motivational Quotes for Grads

Over the years, those mixed feelings of gratitude, excitement, uncertainty, and independence have been beautifully captured in the words of countless inspiring graduation speeches.

Now that you’re finally graduating and are preparing to begin your academic or professional career, the wisdom that’s contained in these great quotes can provide you with the motivation that you’ll need to flourish in the next chapter of your life:

  1. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs

  2. “To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” – Anatole France

  3. “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” – Christopher Reeve

  4. “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

  5. “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

  6. “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” – Melinda Gates

  7. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Unknown (sometimes attributed to Mark Twain)

  8. “The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.” – Neil Gaiman

  9. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling

  10. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

  11. “Your calling isn’t something that somebody can tell you about. It’s what you feel. It’s a part of your life force. It is the thing that gives you juice. The thing that you are supposed to do. And nobody can tell you what that is. You know it inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

  12. “When you respect the idea that you are sharing the earth with other humans, and when you lead with your nice foot forward, you’ll win, every time. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but it comes back to you when you need it.” – Kristen Bell

  13. “I urge you to set aside your labels and explore what your principles say about the world you wish to serve. Because beliefs are our anchors.” – Stacey Abrams

  14. “You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day. But it’s really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever.” – Helen Mirren

  15. “Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

  16. “This path does not belong to your parents, your teachers, your leaders, or your lovers. Your path is your character defining itself more and more everyday, like a photograph coming into focus.” – Jodie Foster

  17. “Do all the other things, the ambitious things—travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes…but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.” – George Saunders

  18. “Don’t buy society’s definition of success. Because it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, it’s not working for men, it’s not working for polar bears, it’s not working for the cicadas that are apparently about to emerge and swarm us. It’s only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, diabetes, heart disease, sleeplessness, and high blood pressure.” – Arianna Huffington

  19. “Do not worry too much about your lawn. You will soon find if you haven’t already that almost every adult American devotes tremendous time and money to the maintenance of an invasive plant species called turf grass that we can’t eat. I encourage you to choose better obsessions.” – John Green

  20. “Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.” – Barack Obama

  21. “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.” – Nora Ephron

  22. “From my point of view, which is that of a storyteller, I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.” – Toni Morrison

  23. “Now the first suggestion is to aim high, but be aware that even before you have reached your ultimate professional destination, if you always strive for excellence, you can and should have a substantial impact on the world in which you live.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

  24. “Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.” – Ed Helms

  25. “Real courage is holding on to a still voice in your head that says, ‘I must keep going.’ It’s that voice that says nothing is a failure if it is not final. That voice that says to you, ‘Get out of bed. Keep going. I will not quit.’” – Cory Booker

  26. “Be compassionate to everyone. Don’t just search for whatever it is that annoys and frightens you, see beyond those things to the basic human being. Especially see the child in the man or woman. Even if they are destroying you, allow a moment to see how lost in their own delusion and suffering they are.” – Alice Walker

  27. “There is no script. Live your life. Soak it all in.” – Dick Costolo

  28. “But real leadership comes from the quiet nudging of an inner voice. It comes from realizing that the time has come to move beyond waiting to doing.” – Madeleine Albright

  29. “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

  30. “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” – Kerry Washington

  31. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

  32. “Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.” – Harold B. Melchart

  33. “You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” – Tom Brokaw

  34. “Instruction ends in the schoolroom, but education ends only with life.” – Frederick W. Robertson

  35. “You don’t go to university so you can punch a clock. You go to university so you can be in a position to make a difference.” – Janet Napolitano

  36. “We may live in an age of instant messaging, instant gratification and Instagram, but there is no way to short circuit the path to success.” – Tory Burch

  37. “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

  38. “Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive: easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.” – Henry Peter Brougham

  39. “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

  40. “What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul.” – Joseph Addison

  41. “Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait. Before you quit, try.” – William Arthur Ward

  42. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

  43. “The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.” – Jon Stewart

  44. “As I stare out into this beautiful room, I see optimism, I see hope, I see the future. I know that each and every one of you has the opportunity to help someone else. All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.” – Rihanna

  45. “If you have found that thing, that purpose in life that gives you access to maximum enthusiasm, trust that! I’m not talking about a job, nor a career, for that matter. I’m talking about a calling! That thing that forces the metaphorical lampshade from your soul, and mandates that everyone wear sunglasses in your presence because you’re just that damn bright! This is not a selfish act! Because now, those who fall within your sphere of influence, know that what is possible for you…is possible for them, as well.” – Sterling K. Brown

  46. “Never let the challenges you face in life defeat your spirit…be a leader by your actions, by your words, define your dream…make it happen no matter what the hurdles or obstacles may be.” – Alison Bechdel

  47. “Fearlessness means taking the first step even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart more than when you stand with a crowd. Be fearless. Be the last people to accept things as they are and the first people to stand up and change them for the better.” – Tim Cook

  48. “Promise me, whether in times of certainty and clarity or in times of chaos, that you will be the bravest self you can be, to confront the challenges of the world. When uncertain times call, promise me that you will embrace community and not division. And promise me, finally, that you will live with a commitment to equal justice under the law, today and throughout your entire lives.” – Anita Hill

  49. “We are not going to arrive at mutual respect, which is where we solve common problems, if we cocoon ourselves in an ideological, social, or intellectual bubble … To move forward … we have to do it together. Humanity has to fight our tribal mindset … If you want to bring people around to your way of thinking, you need to first show them that you are open to theirs.” – Justin Trudeau

  50. “Courage is needed more than ever. At a time when women all over the world face physical abuse, restrictions over their ability to work, own property, travel, and even have custody over their children, we need courage. At a time when the LGBT on every continent struggles for equal rights, freedom from imprisonment and even death, we need courage. At a time when more journalists are imprisoned around the world than any time in the last three decades, and even here at home the media is under attack from the White House, we need courage.” – Amal Clooney

Tips for Delivering Graduation Quotes

Finding a great quote that resonates with you and the person you’d like to congratulate/encourage is half the battle; here are some delivery tips to keep in mind:

  • Know your audience. If you’re a speaker at a graduation event, it pays to know who you’ll be speaking to. After all, the advice you’d give to social work students should probably be different than the commencement address for the school of finance.

    This goes for simple graduation cards as well. For example, if you know your niece wants to work for Apple one day, including a Steve Jobs quote (and cash) is a smart choice.

  • Pick your placement well. From a rhetorical point of view, opening a speech with a quote and then circling back to it at the end is a great way to give your speech a simple narrative foundation. But it can also be powerful to drop a quote in the middle of a talk, to really drive home the theme of your speech.

    For a written card, opening or closing with a quote is the standard. Don’t just write a quote and call it a day — include some words from the heart as well. Try to tie the rest of your message to the quote (or vice versa).

  • Don’t over-do it with quotes. Quotes are quotes for a reason — they beautifully sum up an idea in a way that’s so perfect that it’s not worth trying to say it any differently. However, audiences get bored listening to too many quotes and want to hear some original ideas. Plus, they break up the flow of a natural speech.

    In a card, we recommend sticking with one quote, two max. For a speech, you can probably get away with three or four quotes (spread out) before people start rolling their eyes.

  • Practice your delivery. If you’re a speaker at a graduation event, be sure to practice how to say the quote. Putting inflection on the right syllables makes a big difference in the words’ effect. Consider the difference:

    • Ask not what your country can do for YOU — ask YOU can do for your country.

    • Ask not what YOUR COUNTRY can do for you — ask what you can do for YOUR COUNTRY.

  • Match the recipient’s personality. When sharing a quote with an individual, take into account the balance of their sense of humor with their desire to be serious.

    If you know the person loves a good chuckle, find a clever or humorous quote. If you know they take things like graduation very seriously, show your respect for their accomplishment by sharing a pithy, thought-provoking quote.

  • Be creative with your delivery. When you’re speaking, think through an interesting way to introduce your quote or the person the quote is attributed to.

    Is there a joke you can make? An obscure way to relate the person to the school or your speech topic? Having some fun with it (in an appropriate way) will make your speech more memorable and engaging.

    If you’re incorporating the quote into a card, consider writing or typing it in a nice font on some heavy paper so the graduate can use it as decor or a bookmark. You can also frame the quote, write it on the inside cover of a notebook or journal, or even have it put on a mug.

Graduation Quotes FAQ

  1. What do you write in a teenage graduation card?

    Write a quote, a note of congratulations, and some encouragement in a teenage graduation card. High school graduates are about to start a new chapter in their lives, which can be scary.

    Take the opportunity to inspire them with a quote, congratulate them on a job well done, and encourage them with a good quality you see in them or a note about how you believe in them.

  2. What do you say to high school graduates?

    Say, “Congratulations,” “Well done,” or “We’re so proud of you,” to high school graduates. High school graduates worked hard to be able to walk across that stage, so acknowledge this in whatever you say. Then, whether they’re planning to go to college or enter the workforce, encourage them in their future endeavors.

  3. What is the best graduation message?

    An example of the best graduation message include “best of luck on your new beginnings” and “we’re so proud of you and honored to celebrate graduation with you.” Some other messages to say to a recent graduate are:

    • “Life is a journey and only you hold the map.”

    • “Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you will go.”

    • “I cant wait to see what’s next in your journey.”

    • “Caps off to you, Grad.”


  1. The Harvard Gazette – 6 Past Harvard Commencement Speakers Offer Inspiring Messages of Justice, Courage, Resilience, Empathy

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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