"I urge you: Please don't settle for happiness. It's not good enough. Of course, you deserve it, but if that's all you have in mind, happiness, I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness — free of a steady commitment to social justice — that's more than a barren life; it's a trivial one."
— Toni Morrison at Rutgers University (2011)
"The first rule of improvisation is agree. Always agree and say yes. When you're improvising a scene, this means that you're always required to agree with whatever your partner has created . . . Now obviously, in real life you're not always going to agree with everything that another person says. I mean, that would be ridiculous. But the thing about the rule of agreement, I think, is that it teaches you the second part of it, which is to respect what your partner has created . . . I think that leads you to a great, open-minded starting place. To start with a yes in all your interactions and then see where that takes you."
— Tina Fey at Fieldston High School (2008)
"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you failed by default."
— J.K. Rowling at Harvard (2008)
"Don't take no for an answer — that includes the voice in your own head."
— Katie Couric at Boston University (2011)
"We live in a culture, after all, that tells us that our lives should be easy — that we can have everything we want without a whole lot of effort. But the truth is, and you know this: Creating anything meaningful takes time."
— Michelle Obama at George Washington University (2010)
"All I can tell you today is what I've learned — what I've discovered as a person in this world — and that is this: You can't do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life."
— Amy Poehler at Harvard (2011)
"I can assure you that awards have very little bearing on my own personal happiness — my own sense of well-being and purpose in the world. That comes from studying the world feelingly, with empathy in my work. It comes from staying alert and alive and involved in the lives of the people that I love and the people in the wider world who need my help. No matter what you see me or hear me saying when I'm on your TV, holding a statuette and spewing — that's acting. Being a celebrity has taught me to hide, but being an actor has opened my soul . . . You know, you don't have to be famous. You just have to make your mother and father proud of you."
— Meryl Streep at Barnard College (2010)
"I want to talk about a particular area where you can, you should, and you must make a difference . . . And that is the plight of women and girls around the world . . . I have concluded after traveling many miles and visiting many places in the last decade that talent is universally distributed, but opportunity is not. The futures of these women and girls will affect yours and mine, and therefore it is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing."
— Hillary Clinton at Barnard College (2009)
"My greatest advice to you is to surround yourself with people who are going to fill your cup until your cup runneth over, so that when people say you are so full of yourself, you can say: 'Yeah. Yes, I'm full. I'm so full, my cup runneth over.' And to know that once your cup runneth over, you cannot spend your life with your gallon-size offerings, offering them to pint-size people. You have got to surround yourself with gallon-size people who can hang in the same company with you so that you're not offering your gallons to those little pints out there who can't hold it anyway."
— Oprah Winfrey at Spelman College (2012)
"Two things are happening at the same time . . . One is that this is a time of great danger and we have to look after each other and we have to be aware. But it's also true that perhaps we're about to be free."
— Gloria Steinem at Brown School at Washington University (2012)