Laugh, cry, and get inspired – The best commencement speeches of 2014 (so far)

WATCH ABOVE: Actor Charlie Day delivered the commencement address at his alma mater Merrimack College.

TORONTO – A good commencement speech will make you laugh, make you cry, sometimes even make you cringe, and it will always inspire and motivate you to aim to be the best you can be.

Who could forget Steve Jobs’ great speech at Stanford University in 2005 where he ended by saying: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Not to be outdone by Jobs, Bill Gates showed his funny side in his 2007 speech at Harvard where he said in his intro, “I want to thank Harvard for this timely honour. I’ll be changing my job next year … and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my resume.”

Speeches like these take a life of their own and spread outside of the lecture hall and around the globe, affecting many more people than just the graduates they were meant for.

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So far 2014 seems to be the year of commencement speeches. Everyone from Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs and Jay Leno, to Sandra Bullock and Bill Nye have delivered amazing and inspirational speeches.

Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs speaks to Howard University students

Speaking at Howard University, where he attended in the 80s but never graduated from, Combs opened up about discovering that his father didn’t die in a car accident as his mother had told him, but that he had been murdered in a drug deal gone bad.

“Right there in that [Howard] library, I realized there’s nothing greater than a mother’s love and desire to protect her child,” he told the crowd.

Combs also received an honorary doctorate from the school.

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Leno cracked jokes and gave insight into his career when he spoke to Emerson College students earlier this month. He told them “you’re never as important as you think you are,” and that “anybody can have a life; careers are hard to come by.”

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Highlights from Jay Leno’s speech

Actor Charlie Day gave a hilarious speech on Sunday at Merrimack College in Massachusetts (watch Day’s speech above).

Day, who stars on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, told the graduating class that he will use his honorary doctorate to “begin writing my own prescriptions immediately.”

In addition to making the crowd laugh, the 38-year-old encouraged the 520 graduates to take chances in life and create their own successes.

On Wednesday, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told graduates at New York University’s commencement that “There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called ‘ability.”‘

In fact, she said, research shows that measures of ability are unreliable predictors of performance in academics or employment. Instead, she said, what’s more important is a quality that psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth calls grit – “an abiding commitment to work hard toward long-range goals and to persevere through the setbacks that come along the way.”

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Janet Yellen delivers NYU commencement speech

Her speech drew cheers from the crowd. “The entire theme around grit I thought was excellent,” said John Tus, the vice-president and treasurer of Honeywell and the father of a graduating senior. “I think that’s what it takes to succeed, especially for the youth today, so many of them without jobs.”

Bullock was her charming self when she surprised the graduates at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans. She told them to stop worrying so much, raise the bar higher, and don’t pick your nose in public.

“For some reason people want to see you fail, but that is not your problem, that is their problem,” she told them.

Sandra Bullock’s speech to Warren Easton Charter High School

Bill ‘The Science Guy’ Nye’s speech to UMass Lowell graduates sums up what every great commencement speech strives to say.

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“I want you to change the world,” Nye told them.

Bill Nye speaks at UMass Lowell’s 2014 Graduation

SOUND OFF: What do you think makes a great commencement speech? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

-With files from John Kennedy and The Associated Press

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