Best Graduation Speeches: Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O'Brien, Steve Jobs [Video]

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It's the season when the accomplished, the funny, and the powerful descend on college campuses -- and talk at them. The 2012 graduating class can look forward to an impressive and powerful lineup of speakers: President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Mitt Romney, to name a few.

But before the distinguished speakers can deliver their advice to this year's graduating class, we have some of our own: The best speeches seem to be from people who never graduated from college, or are funny, or better yet, are both -- and who honestly share their hard-earned wisdom.

Past speeches have gone beyond the campus quads where they were given to be shared on the Web. Here, some favorite addresses that are still buzzing.

Ellen DeGeneres had a serious and seriously funny message for the 2009 graduating class of Tulane University, who had braved Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.


The talk show host, who did not go to college, recounted, "When I was your age, I really thought I knew who I was, but I had no idea. For example, when I was your age, I was dating men." She joked, "So what I'm saying is, when you're older, most of you will be gay."

The comedian then revealed a very tragic start to her comic career: DeGeneres, a New Orleans native, began writing stand-up after her girlfriend died in a car crash. She penned an imaginary "one-sided" phone conversation with God and performed the bit on Johnny Carson. This started her on a path to success, but she kept the fact that she was gay a secret.

[Video: Watch Clips From Ellen DeGeneres' Talk Show Right Here]

She told the audience that on her sitcom, "I decided to come out… what's the worst that can happen? I'll lose my career. I did." Yet she got letters from kids who said her decision to come out on TV kept them from committing suicide. She was then offered a talk show, "but most stations didn't want to pick it up." Despite the tough times, "I wouldn't change a thing. I don't live in fear, I have no secrets, and I know who I am."

Conan O'Brien noted in a speech to the Dartmouth College class of 2011 that former President George H.W. Bush was on the stage with him: "I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired president of the United States and decorated war hero. And I, a cable television talk show host, have been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today."


The co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, who never graduated from college, had plenty of life lessons to impart in his speech to Stanford, back in 2005, which went viral after his death in 2011. The innovator related that leaving college was the secret to his success. The CEO told students dropping out of college was "one of the best decisions I ever made."


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