In the happy moments of our lives – graduation, a new job, a promotion, the birth of a child, a marriage, newfound independence – it is easy to dream of a better future and believes that it is really possible.
But at the lows, and even in the middle, it’s even easier to lose sight of those dreams. By letting daily stressors reduce the future we know we can achieve.
So take advantage of the moments of clarity when you see them. Let these seven inspiring opening speeches push you into those moments and dare to dream big.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Howard University, 2016
“If you had to pick a moment in history when you could be born and didn’t know in advance who you would become: what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you would be rich or poor, gay or straight, in what faith you would be born, no you would choose 100 years ago. You wouldn’t choose the fifties, sixties, or seventies. You would choose now. If you had to choose a time to be, in Lorraine Hansberry’s words, ‘young, talented and black’ in America, it would be now.”
“It’s important to see the progress. Because to deny how far we have come would hurt the cause of justice, the legions of infantrymen; not only the already mentioned incredibly talented people, but also their mothers and fathers, and their grandparents and great-grandparents, who marched, worked, suffered, and conquered to make this day possible. I’m not telling you this to lull you to sleep, but to prod you into action because there’s much more work to be done, many miles to go.”
BILL AND MELINDA GATES
Stanford University, 2014
“Bill worked incredibly hard, took risks, and sacrificed himself for success. But there is another essential ingredient to success, and that ingredient is happiness, absolute and total happiness. When were you born? Who were your parents? Where are you grew up? None of us deserved these things, they were given to us.
If we shake off our happiness and our privileges and think about where we would be without them, it becomes easier to look at someone who is poor and sick and say, “That could be me.” This is empathy; break down barriers and open new frontiers for optimism.
So here’s our call to you: When you get out of Stanford, take your brilliance and your optimism and your empathy and start changing the world in ways that will make millions of people optimistic too. ”
“Dreams don’t come true just because you dream them. It’s the hard work that makes things happen, it’s the hard work that creates the change… Put away the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer… My dreams didn’t come true. But I have worked very hard. And eventually, I built an empire with my imagination. So my dreams? I can suck it.”
Harvard University, 2014
“I should give you advice and I thought, what advice could I give you? So I thought, who should give advice then? The answer is people like you. They are better educated and go out into the world and people go listen to what they say… I look to you all and I see the future of America… Understand that one day you will have the power to make a difference, so use it well.”
Wake Forest University, 2015
“Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen. Not even Elon Musk. That’s why he builds those missiles. He wants a “Plan B” in another world.
But whatever happens, I think it’s perfectly appropriate that I talk to you right now. Because I’ve just learned for many years to do something really well. I felt so comfortable with that place, that role, those responsibilities that it started to shape how I saw myself. But now that part of my life is over. It is time to say goodbye to the person we have become, we have worked so hard to perfect ourselves and make crucial decisions about who we will be. For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do a one-hour show every night. And you will have to sleep at some point. I was told that Adderall disappears over time. Good luck.”