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10 must-see commencement speeches

Commencement season is in full swing.

This year, Sheryl Sandberg is one of speakers whose commencement speech has gone viral. At the University of California, Berkeley, Sandberg opened up about her husband's death and her struggle in the wake of the loss.

"You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience," she said. "Like your muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are -- and you just might become the best version of yourself."

Click through to see 10 more must-see commencement speeches from past years.

Nora Ephron, 1996

Author Nora Ephron attends the "Julie & Julia" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on July 30, 2009 in New York. Ephron, the author and filmmaker behind hits like "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," died on June 26, 2012, of leukemia in New York. She was 71. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Writer Nora Ephron told Wellesley graduates in 1996 to "take it personally" when people attacked women -- and name-checked Hillary Clinton.

"Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you," she said. "Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn't serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you -- whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you."

Of course, the "When Harry Met Sally" writer and Wellesley alum still injected her signature humor, saying, "You can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."

Toni Morrison, 2004

Toni Morrison delivered the 2004 Wellesley College commencement speech. Getty Images

Author Toni Morrison told Wellesley College graduates in 2004, "Be your own story."

The novelist encouraged graduates to create their own reality and said, "Although you will never fully know or successfully manipulate the characters who surface or disrupt your plot, you can respect the ones who do by paying them close attention and doing them justice. The theme you choose may change or simply elude you, but being your own story means you can always choose the tone."

Morrison stressed that graduates had the power to shape their own futures, and turn their lives "into art."

Conan O'Brien, 2000

Conan O'Brien speaks onstage at the Keynote Conversation during Tune In! Variety's TV Summit at Intercontinental Century City on August 6, 2014 in Century City, California. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Conan O'Brien's famous speech was really on Class Day, not Commencement, but that doesn't make it any less impactful.

O'Brien admitted that he actually wished the bad upon graduates -- in addition to the good, of course.

He talked about how important failure was to his success and said, "So, that's what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over."

David Foster Wallace, 2005

David Foster Wallace, author of "Infinite Jest," gave one of the most famous commencement speeches of all time. Back Bay Books

David Foster Wallace's speech, "This is Water," is one of the most famous commencement speeches of all time.

In it, the late writer encouraged graduates to break free from their beliefs and "lens of self."

Wallace talked about the importance of changing one's mindset.

"Look, if I choose to think this way, fine, lots of us do -- except that thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn't have to be a choice," he said. "Thinking this way is my natural default-setting. It's the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations."

Steve Jobs, 2005

Steve Jobs knew already that his days were limited when he delivered the commencement address at Stanford in 2005.

He said, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life." Jobs had been diagnosed with cancer a year earlier.

Jobs said in his speech, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

J.K. Rowling, 2008

British author J.K. Rowling as poses for photographers during a photo call to unveil her book "The Casual Vacancy" at the Southbank Centre in London on Sept. 27, 2012. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

J.K. Rowling got her Muggle robe on at Harvard University in 2008 when she delivered a memorable commencement speech.

The "Harry Potter" author talked about "failure and imagination" in her speech and said that no one expected her to ever succeed.

"I had failed on an epic scale," she said. "An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless."

She pushed graduates to take responsibility for their goals and work ethic, saying, "There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you."

Atul Gawande, 2012

Professor Atul Gawande, M.D. delivers speech during Geisinger Health System A Century of Transformation and Innovation Symposium at Pine Barn Inn on September 25, 2015 in Danville, Pennsylvania. Lisa Lake/Getty Images

Like many other commencement speakers, Atul Gawande, surgeon and New Yorker writer, spoke about taking risks and failure -- but he took a different approach.

Gawande argued that rescuing failures is more important than taking risks.

"A failure often does not have to be a failure at all," he said. "However, you have to be ready for it--will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?--because the difference between triumph and defeat, you'll find, isn't about willingness to take risks. It's about mastery of rescue."

George Saunders, 2013

The works of author George Saunders, like his bestselling collection, "Tenth of December," are dark, funny, compassionate, and (like the story of Saunders' own life) take surprising twists and turns. CBS News

George Saunders urged Syracuse University graduates to "err in the direction of kindness" in 2013.

The writer skipped platitudes about success and drive, and instead delivered a commencement speech about the importance of kindness, telling graduates, "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness," after talking about a girl he grew up with who was bullied.

Shonda Rhimes, 2014

Shonda Rhimes attends the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills. Charley Gallay/Getty Images for GLAAD

TV mega-producer Shonda Rhimes gave graduates tough love at her 2014 Dartmouth College commencement speech.

"You want to be a writer?" she asked. "A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don't have a job? Get one. Any job. Don't sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else." Wise -- and practical -- words.

Stephen Colbert, 2015

"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert delivered a speech that was just as current as it was funny -- he even mentioned 2015's viral sensation, "The Dress."

While he pushed graduates to stay ambitious, he also teased their choice of outfit: "It's a little embarrassing you all showed up in the same outfit. Really, even all of the accessories are the same. Everyone has a black and gold tassel--or is it blue and white?"

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