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12 Inspirational Quotes for New Grads

Read these indelible words of wisdom from artists, presidents, Oprah and more

left soledad o brien center toni morrison and right stephen colbert

Slaven Vlasic, Craig Barritt and CBS Photo Archive

Soledad O'Brien, Toni Morrison and Stephen Colbert

En español | From caps and gowns to family celebrations, graduation season is a time of traditions — and a time when words of wisdom are being dispensed at virtual and in-person commencement ceremonies across the country.

But good advice doesn't have to be limited to the podium, says Laya Saul, author of You Don't Have to Learn Everything the Hard Way, an advice book for teens. For older adults wondering how to best offer their children or grandchildren advice about life transitions, Saul recommends taking what she calls a “heart-centered” approach: Make sure the person you're talking to knows that you care about them, and offer up your advice sincerely and attentively. “The idea isn't to lecture,” she says, “but to share."

Other tips? Ask for permission before sharing your thoughts, she says, and don't be afraid to reveal the struggles or imperfections you've overcome in your own life — honesty can mean the difference between heartfelt guidance and platitudes.

If you still need a little help finding the perfect advice for a new grad in your life, consider the following words of wisdom from notable figures. You might even find their advice inspires you, too.


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Sarah Elizabeth Adler joined aarp.org as a writer in 2018. Her pieces on science, art and culture have appeared in The Atlantic, where she was previously an editorial fellow, California magazine and elsewhere.

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