The greatest graduation speech: Harvard student inspires millions with powerful poem

Graduation speeches can be a torrid affair.

But not for those lucky enough to listen to Donovan Livingston, whose delivery of his awe-inspiring poem at Harvard University is going colossally viral online.

Nearly eight million people have now watched the powerful address since a video of his oration was posted to Facebook on Thursday.

Many have even hailed it as the greatest graduation speech ever.

The most powerful graduation speech of all time?   Donovan Livingston delivers his awe-inspiring poem

The likes of Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton have even shared his heartfelt rendition of his own artistry.

Those lucky enough to hear the speech live, including Harvard professors, greeted Donovan’s poem with a standing ovation.

He is now a social sciences research assistant at the university, and began his speech quoting educational reformer Horace Mann:

‘Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,

‘Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.’

Captivated by Donovan’s compelling prose, a video of his delivery was uploaded by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

They wrote: ‘One of the most powerful, heartfelt student speeches you will ever hear! Thank you Ed.M. candidate Donovan Livingston for today’s spoken word poetry.’

Nearly eight million people have listened to his powerful piece including the likes of Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton

The video has already been shared over 170,000 times and commenters are unanimously impressed.

Jackie Pritchard wrote: ‘Love love love this! printing and putting it up so my children and I are reminded of this wisdom daily.’

And Bee Keepers simply put: ‘The next Obama. Great speech.’

Those who were lucky enough to hear the speech live, including Harvard professors, greeted the poem with a standing ovation

While Michelle Flowers added: ‘Donovan Livingston is a name we will hear again and again. He is a game changer! I’m so proud! Bravo!’

And June Mitchell wrote: ‘Amazing, we need at least another million like this young man in our community to inspire urban youth!’

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,

Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.’ – Horace Mann, 1848.

At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.

Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.

For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.

Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —

The guardians of information.


Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering

In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.

For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.

How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —

Like tokens in coined phrases? —

‘Diversity. Inclusion’

There are days I feel like one, like only —

A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.

But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.

With a passion that transcends the confines of my consciousness —

Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.

I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,

With veins pumping revolution.

I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.

I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.

I am a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget

My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.

So my body, like the mind

Cannot be contained.


As educators, rather than raising your voices

Over the rustling of our chains,

Take them off. Un-cuff us.

Unencumbered by the lumbering weight

Of poverty and privilege,

Policy and ignorance.


I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,

‘Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!’

And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.

She gave me a stage. A platform.

She told me that our stories are ladders

That make it easier for us to touch the stars.

So climb and grab them.

Keep climbing. Grab them.

Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.

Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.

Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.

If you take the time to connect the dots,

You can plot the true shape of their genius —

Shining in their darkest hour.


I look each of my students in the eyes,

And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt

And the pyramids of Giza.

I see the same twinkle

That guided Harriet to freedom.

I see them. Beneath their masks and mischief,

Exists an authentic frustration;

An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.

We were born to be comets,

Darting across space and time —

Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.

A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —

An indelible impact that shook up the world.

Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?

I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —

Tribulations into telescopes,

So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.

An injustice is telling them they are stars

Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.

Injustice is telling them education is the key

While you continue to change the locks.


Education is no equalizer —

Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.

So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices

Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.

Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.

I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;

Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.

But those days are done. I belong among the stars.

And so do you. And so do they.

Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness

For generations to come.

No, sky is not the limit.

It is only the beginning.

Lift off.

Source: The DailyMail

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