It’s graduation season and that means insightful advice and encouragement from this year’s commencement speakers. From Oprah to President Joe Biden, there have been several inspiring keynote speakers at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) this year and we’re highlighting a few to get you motivated and inspired. Check out these 2023 HBCU commencement speaker highlights!

1Oprah Winfrey – Tennessee State University

Media Mogul, Oprah Winfrey returned to her alma mater Tennessee State University To deliver the Spring 2023 Commencement address.  This speech marked the first time Oprah returned to TSU since 1987. In her inspirational 20-minute speech, she advised over 800 undergraduates as they embark on their new journey after college. She gave insightful advice like, “there will never be anything in your life as fulfilling as making a difference in somebody else’s.”

2President Joe Biden – Howard University

United States President Joe Biden served as Howard University’s 2023 commencement speaker. The President spoke on a variety of topics including, the dangers of white supremacy, gun safety legislation, and his debt relief plan. He told graduates that American history “has not always been a fairy tale” and that “racism has long torn us apart.” But on the nation’s best days, he said “enough of us have the guts and the heart to stand up for the best in us.”

3Ruth E. Carter – Hampton University

Oscar-award-winning costume designer and Hampton alum Ruth E. Carter addressed the class of 2023 at the university’s 153rd Commencement Ceremony. During her speech, she encouraged her fellow Pirates to “find your treasure,” she said. “Be a student of your profession, continue to improve your craft, and have faith in your foundation and make sacrifices today so your tomorrow is rewarded.”   

4Morris Chesnut at North Carolina A&T

 NAACP Image Award-winning actor Morris Chesnut served as the keynote speaker at North Carolina A&T this year. During his speech, Chesnut reminded graduates of the importance of character and discipline. “Talent only gets you in the door. It’s going to be your character that keeps you in the room and gets you invited back,” he said. “Discipline isn’t just about doing what it takes to get what you want. Real discipline is sometimes about letting go of what you love … to gain something that I wanted and needed.”

5Governor Wes Moore – Morehouse College

Wes Moore, the first black governor of Maryland was the 2023 commencement speaker at Morehouse College. In his powerful speech, he urged graduates to know and defend their history, referencing current statewide book bans and changes to curricula from conservative lawmakers. “Men of Morehouse, I stand before you as the first Black governor of my state and only the third Black governor ever to be elected in the history of this country with a very simple message: Our history is our power,” he said. 

6Caroline Wanga – Dillard University

President And CEO Of ESSENCE Ventures, Caroline Wanga addressed the graduating class of 2023 at Dillard University. “It’s not so much about what the power of your presence after today will do for the world,” Wanga said to the graduates. “What’s more important is how powerful your absence will be.”  

7Ben Crump – Morgan State University 

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump delivered Morgan State University‘s spring 2023 commencement address. During his speech, Crump told the crowd of graduates that they have to “continue to lift” as they climb the ladder of success. “Take this great Morgan State University college education and take it back to the hood, to your homeboys, to your homegirls, to your cousins, your family,” he said.

8Anthony Hamilton – Johnson C. Smith University 

Grammy award-winning R&B singer Anthony Hamilton served as Johnson C. Smith University’s 2023 commencement speaker. During his speech, he emphasized the importance of self-worth, telling the graduates to “stay firm on who you are and who you believe you are. Never lose sight of that.”