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9 Lessons To Learn From Steven Spielberg’s Commencement Speech At Harvard

We often talk a about commencement speeches. In most cases, given by a well known personality at a remarkable university. We consider it a source of inspiration and real life knowledge based on real experiences.

Ace film maker Steven Spielberg was invited by Harvard University to deliver inspirational speeach at it’s 365th commencement on May 26, 2016.

Steven Spielberg’s Commencement Speech Video:

Video of this commencement speech is uploaded by Harvard University in the public domain, so everyone around the world with Internet connection can watch it and sail through the words of wisdom and inspiration delivered in it.

Found calm and composed through out the speech Steven is definitely a good source of inspiration. He talked about many things, shared his personal experiences and even considered the current happenings in his speech as well. Here are what we found very important in the speech.

1. Be adaptive, there is no wrong time to do the right thing:

Well, he never said it literally. However he explains his journey of graduation and we got to know that it took him 37 year to accomplish it! He left the study very early, because he knew what he wanted to do! He did it, and did it pretty well. But then came the time when his kids are growing up and he found that the education is must for them, precisely the graduation.

He followed the way of “doing it, rather than advising it”. The same way followed by Mahatma Gandhi, a long ago. When he found dirt somewhere, rather then asking someone to get it cleaned, he himself started doing it. That’s why it is said, the best way to teach something (or convey something effectively) is to do it by example.

In other words you can sum up it as: Be the change you want to see.

2. Character defining moments:

He talked about some important moments in our life, when our true character is actually revealed. These are the moments which defines real us.
We remembered the famous quote of Professor Dumbledore:

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Steven said it in his words, primarily in the context of choosing the career option. He then broaden having such moments throughout the life. Basically they are the key moments when your decision makes you to choose right (or sometimes wrong, or less better) path. In his own words:

in a two-hour movie, you get a handful of character-defining moments, but in real life, you face them every day. Life is one strong, long string of character-defining moments.

He also said:

In your defining moments, do not let your morals be swayed by convenience or expediency. Sticking to your character requires a lot of courage. And to be courageous, you’re going to need a lot of support.

3. Follow your intuitions:

This way or this way?

This way or this way?

He then talks about challenging one’s abilities and using them at the maximum.

Your conscience shouts, “here’s what you should do,” while your intuition whispers, “here’s what you could do.” Listen to that voice that tells you what you could do. Nothing will define your character more than that.

4. Challenge your abilities:

If something is painful then it is very easy to leave it or opting out for an alternative. However the real courage lies in challenging the limitations, wisely. Of course, the reality check should always be made prior to that.

Don’t turn away from what’s painful. Examine it. Challenge it.

Steven said it brilliantly by putting phrase “Examine it” before “Challenge it”.

5. Real things live longer:

As real things live longer and so do its effects and after-effects. He gave an example of his work. As he is making a movie, he need to create a world of its own. A world which go in conjunction with the tale he is telling. In the real world you have to be more careful as the consequences affect real people. So wise decisions are not only expected from your, it is your duty to not to do anything foolish.

My job is to create a world that lasts two hours.
Your job is to create a world that lasts forever.
You are the future innovators, motivators, leaders and caretakers.

Remember the famous quote from the Spiderman movies: with great power comes great responsibility.

6. Learning and Remembering History is very important:

A leaf must remember the tree it belongs to

A leaf must remember the tree it belongs to

And the way you create a better future is by studying the past. Jurassic Park writer Michael Crichton, who graduated from both this college and this medical school, liked to quote a favorite professor of his who said that “if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree”.

Of course, experience is the best teacher. And that’s why, we need to lear from the experiences of our ancestors. We need to remember and follow the wise thing they did, preserve and carry forward the knowledge passed to us, and avoid the mistakes they made.

The world is in current shape because of the past. So without knowing the past, how can you know about current status?

7. Love is very important:

And from where do you get the real information in addition to remarkable archives? From real people, from real people whom you belong to and for whom you are one of the ultimate treasures, who are responsible for your existence, and your abilities.

Talk to your parents and your grandparents, if you can, and ask them about their stories. And I promise you, like I have promised my kids, you will not be bored.

It is very important to respect the treasure of experience and learn from it. Parents are grandparents are like oceans which are waiting to be mined. Just approach them with pure heart and see/experience what you get.

If your family’s not always available, there’s backup.

No man is a failure who has friends.

Sometimes, it is possible that your family is not available at the very moment, you can rely on true friend during that time. You might have experienced, that when you are in a good mood or foul, you need someone to talk to. We, human beings are social animals, and we genetically require emotional support and acceptance.

Steven goes ahead and ask students that the love is very essential, and finding a person who loves you, irrespective of situations, is very very important. Finding love and staying with the same throughout the life, is one of the ultimate pleasures we can have. He shares his experience also.

8. Humanity is essential:

Heroes and villains are not literary constructs, but they’re at the heart of all history.

And we agree with the same. Every generation is facing different challenges. Be it inventing a wheel or finding a shelter in ancient times. Or saving people from TB, Malaria, AIDS and many other such illnesses in current (and recent past) times. In the coming time we will be facing many more new villains coming our way. Be it global warming, shortage of fuel, new viruses or something different. But more challenging is keeping our innocence and humanity intact; prevent hatred from taking over us. He says:

Love, support, courage, intuition. All of these things are in your hero’s quiver, but still, a hero needs one more thing: A hero needs a villain to vanquish. And you’re all in luck. This world is full of monsters. And there’s racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred, there’s political hatred, and there’s religious hatred.

Steven refers to some of the recent political events in US brilliantly, and represents his point of view as

We are a nation of immigrants — at least for now.

We are getting into being more and more selfish day by day. India has given very good message to the world with the phrase – वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम. Since ancient times, we believe in the entire world is a family. And we should consider all human beings (and for that matter, every soul, every element) as equal. The actual Sanskrit Subhashit is:

अयं निज: परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् ।
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥

And this is what Steven said:

Instinctively and maybe even genetically, we divide the world into “us” and “them“. So the burning question must be: How do all of us together find the “we”?

Aren’t both lines similar? The facts remain facts, irrespective of time. But, it also reminds us one thing. Whatever we say about human growth and evolution (as species), whatever we may achieve in terms of science and technology, we have still a long way to go to be humans in real sense.

The only answer to more hate is more humanity.

9. Stay Connected:

In this digital era when we share almost everything with thousands (or millions) of people around the world, sometimes with whom, who may not care for it too. It is very essential to understand that whenever possible, be in touch with the real person, not his/her digital identity. He urges that:

And please stay connected. Please never lose eye contact.

Eye contact is essential, stay connected

Eye contact is essential, stay connected

And he concludes in a remarkable style via the following words:

And finally, I wish you all a true, Hollywood-style happy ending. I hope you outrun the T. rex, catch the criminal and for your parents’ sake, maybe every now and then, just like E.T.: Go home. Thank you.


It was realistic, inspirational and full of wisdom.

Remember, this is not word to word transcription of Mr. Spielberg’s commencement speech, but our own vision and views for the same. Do let us know what else you find from the same via comments below. We will be happy to learn. And yes, do not forget to share this article with your loved ones if you found it helpful and inspirational.

Complete Transcript:

Enthusiasts can go for the the complete transcript of this speech at:

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