The first full decade of All-University Commencement ceremonies at Yankee Stadium brought a variety of big-name speakers to the podium, including heads of state, entertainment stars, and civil rights heroes. As we say goodbye to the 2010s, here's a chance to revisit the wisdom these honorary degree recipients shared with our past 10 graduating classes. 


2010: Alec Baldwin
Actor and Tisch alumnus ('94)

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Myth of a risk free life is just that—myth.”

2011: Bill Clinton

42nd President of the United States

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I wish you well. I think it can be the most interesting time in human history—an age of prosperity and peace and discovery, but only if it is an age of genuine community and sharing.”

2012: Sonia Sotomayor

United States Supreme Court Justice

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To squeeze from life its fullness, to be happy in this world in the short period of time we are given, to find meaning in life, you have to be actively giving members of your communities. Neither your life nor the world you live in just happens. You control the quality of your lives and your communities. It is only in giving to others that you can find meaning and satisfaction in what you do.”

2013: David Boies

Attorney and lead co-counsel in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the historic same-sex marriage civil rights case

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No civil rights struggle proceeds in a straight line. There are reverses, and there have been many reverses in this civil rights struggle already. But fundamentally we are right. Everyone is entitled to equal protection, and we have as a society only succeeded in ignoring that because we have been able to characterize people—women, African Americans, people of different religions, and people of different sexual orientations—as different. They are not. We know it, they know it, and someday the United States Supreme Court will recognize it.”

2014: Janet Yellen

First woman to serve as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

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“You won't succeed all the time. Even Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio failed most of the time when they stepped to the plate. Finding the right path in life, more often than not, involves some missteps.”

2015: Sherrilyn Ifill

President and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

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“I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard. That is the essence of good citizenship, that bone-deep sense of obligation that you must work to improve our democracy, and to improve it especially for those who are most marginalized and most in need.”

2016: Darren Walker

Ford Foundation president

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“As graduates of this extraordinary institution, you have enormous privilege. With that privilege comes a responsibility—to not just stand out, but to stand for something, whether you are writing a legal opinion, or editing a genome, or running for office, or literally doing stand up. Stand for something.”

2017: Pharrell Williams

Musician, songwriter, and producer

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Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principles, and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back. Imagine the possibilities when women are not held back. The world that you will live in that will be a lot better. This is the first generation that navigates with the security and confidence to treat women as equals.”

2018: Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada

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In every generation leaders emerge because they one day awake to the realization that it's not up to someone else to fix this problem or take up that cause—it's up to them. So now is the time for you to lead.”

2019: Elizabeth Alexander

President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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I believe that you can create this world where none is lonely, none hunted, none alien. I believe that you can create a world where all people have community and safety. Where we can all belong and be known.”