Teri Wilson
May 23, 2015 10:41 am

The high school I attended was enormous. We’re talking massive. I didn’t even recognize the person who gave the valedictorian speech at our graduation. I can only assume that she was, in fact, an actual student at my school. She spoke about her plans to go to college and study something scientific. So hopefully she’s one of the awesome women working in the STEM field now. An astronaut, maybe. A Nobel Prize winner, probs.

As our valedictorian, graduation was her moment to shine. Since now is the time of year for pomp, circumstance and mortarboard hats, we thought we’d honor those hard-working students who study their way to the top of the class. So here are some of our fave valedictorian speeches from movies and TV:

Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.

This is probably my fave commencement speech of all time, because Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods is simply perfection. And, OF COURSE, Elle ended up being valedictorian at Harvard Law School, all while maintaining a perfect manicure and Bruiser’s highlights. The only way this graduation speech could have been improved upon is if she’d worn a pink cap and gown. If anyone could pull off a bubblegum-hued polyester blend, Elle could. Even with a half-loop top stitching on the hem. After all, pink is her signature color.

Jessica Stanley, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

This isn’t the time to make hard and fast decisions, this is the time to make mistakes. Take the wrong train and get stuck somewhere. Fall in love—a lot. Major in Philosophy because there is no way to make a career out of that. Change your mind and change it again because nothing’s permanent. So make as many mistakes as you can. That way someday when they asked what we wanna be, we won’t have to guess—we’ll know.

Oh, Anna Kendrick. Your awesomeness was apparent, even back in your Forks High days. Jessica pretty much stole every one of her scenes in the first Twilight movie. Her graduation speech is quintessentially Jess, especially when she says her childhood career aspiration was to be a princess. I do, however, maintain that not only was Jessica smart enough to be valedictorian of Forks High School, but she had to know something was up with the Cullens. They didn’t exactly blend in. As Jessica herself would say, “Like…I know, right?”

Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her.

I cried more when Rory Gilmore graduated from Chilton than I did at my own graduation. I swear. I still get weepy thinking about it. Here we all expected Paris to be valedictorian, but the honor went to our dear, sweet Rory. Her speech is a perfect snapshot of everything that was so great about this show. From the town of Star’s Hollow with its lovably quirky residents (seriously, can this be a real place, please?) to the perfect mother-daughter relationship, Gilmore Girls was everything. Everything.

Robbie Weaver, Crazy Stupid Love

Welcome, class of 2011. Our time as middle schoolers has come to an end. We can’t fight it anymore, we’re getting old. All my life I wanted to grow up. I wanted to appear older, so people would take me seriously. It all sounded so good to me. Growing up, getting a job, getting married, but it’s all a scam. And love, that’s the biggest scam of all. I was in love, and I…I know that makes some of you laugh, cause I’m only thirteen. But, whatever, I was.

This one wins all the prizes. Because Ryan Gosling was in the audience, looking and acting like the world’s perfect boyfriend (as Ryan Gosling does.)

Let’s give Robbie Weaver his due, though. His angst-ridden speech totally nails what it’s like to be a lovestruck 13 year old. I love this kid. He’s sweet and courageous and willing to put his heart on the line for the girl of his dreams. She’s his babysitter. AND she has a mad crush on his dad. But, whatever, he loves her. And he’s not afraid to stand up in front of his entire school and talk about it.

Alex Dunphy, Modern Family

It’s ironic that I stand up here representing my classmates when…they’re so… awesome… They should be up here themselves. But I’m up here, and… I’m sayin’… stuff, ’cause everybody’s got their… stuff, whether you’re popular or a drama geek…We’re all just trying to figure out who we are. I guess what I’m trying to say is…don’t stop… believin’…Get this party started.

This one’s from another middle school graduation, which sort of begs the question—did your commencement from eighth grade involve a ceremony with caps and gowns? Because mine sure didn’t. Whatevs. Alex Dunphy’s apparently did. She’s been named valedictorian of her class after her academic rival was attacked by a robot of his own making and forced to miss class. (I hate it when that happens.) If Alex’s words don’t sound like hers, it’s because they’re not. Her speech is an impromptu hodgepodge of musical lyrics and quotes from her sister Haley, who urged Alex not to give the original speech she’d written because it would turn her into a “social piranha.” (Again, I hate it when that happens.)

Alex’s speech is a hit with her classmates, prompting her to respond with a sarcastic “really?” Which just goes to show: When in doubt, quote Journey. And don’t stop believin’.

Diane Court, Say Anything

We’ve gone to school together for three years, and we’ve been through a lot. But with that training out of High School gone, what’s going to happen to us? We all know what the answers are. We want to be happy, go to college, own a car, maybe raise a family. But what if that doesn’t happen? I have, I have to be honest, though, I have all the hope and ambition in the world. But when I think about the future, the truth is, I am really…scared.

Diane’s speech pretty much bombed with her classmates. Nobody laughed her jokes except Lloyd (insert dreamy sigh), and the only other person who seemed at all interested was her dad (natch). What I love about this speech is how surprising it was coming from Diane. She is after all, a perfect straight-A genius who wins a major fellowship to study at a university in England. If anyone should feel secure about her future, it’s Diane Court. Frankly, this speech sounds more like something we’d hear from aimless underachiever Lloyd, perfectly played by my forever 80’s crush, John Cusack.

But the truth is that everyone is at least a little bit scared when they graduate. For 12 years, the future has been mostly safe and predictable. Now, everything is about to change. And change is always a little bit scary. But it’s also amazing and one of the best things about growing up.

Besides, later in the movie, this happens, and all of our hearts explode…

Diane, you’ve got nothing to worry about girl. Your future looks AMAZE.

So do all of yours, Gigglers! Happy graduation. Don’t stop believin’.

(Images via here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere and here.)

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