Of Course Tim McGraw’s Commencement Speech Was Irreproachable and Inspiring

This Is Some Serious Summa-Cum-Laude-Level Motivation

Even though technically he didn’t graduate from college, Tim McGraw knows a thing or two about dreaming big dreams and navigating the road that takes you there.

So after congratulating his own younger daughters Maggie and Audrey — who just graduated from Standford University and Ensworth High School, respectively — McGraw had some humble and kind words for the rest of the world’s graduates who missed out on their regularly scheduled commencement ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine.

In a speech he gave via the iHeartRadio commencement speech series, McGraw gave this advice to the graduates of the class of 2020 all over the country, saying it was for anyone who needed to be reminded of the power of human connection during these difficult times. And by difficult, he means all of it: the COVID-19 situation, the racial unrest, the political divide, and all of the issues that have made this year such an unprecedented one.

Here is McGraw’s when-life-gives-you-lemons speech in full:

Congratulations to all the graduates out there.

It goes without saying that you are graduating at one of the most unique times in our history. Even though you may not be on your college campus, your graduations continue to happen, virtually or delayed. Your diplomas will be sent in the mail, not handed out with a handshake, maybe by the dean who talked you through a rough time or the teacher who always went the extra mile.

So your family is cheering you on from the comfort of their home and not from the stands of an auditorium or the bleachers of a stadium. There won’t be moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, sisters, brothers, and friends all trying to spot you in a sea of caps and gowns. They won’t be standing beside each other, hearing the same speakers, squinting into the same sunshine from the same hard chairs or bleachers, or maybe dodging that same rainstorm, meeting up afterwards for a meal, sharing stories and laughs and the joy of this moment.

The situation is unique, but that is also what makes it memorable. The entire world is thinking about you, standing behind you, and wanting to support you as you enter the next phase of your journey. I can personally relate to the situation you’re in, as we have two daughters graduating this year. One from high school, one from college. Our family joins you in the disappointment of not being able to share this moment in person as a collective event.

We are all witnesses to your accomplishment, to this important marker of time in your life, even though it looks different than we all imagined. Life is often different than we imagine. Our current time is an extreme example of that. But no matter how difficult times may be, we adapt, we innovate, we figure it out. In the last few months, as we have been asked to stay apart, we’ve also grown closer. Our focus has shifted away from what divides us, towards what keeps us all connected. We’re truly examining how we connect with one another, how we help others when the rules change, how we show love when can’t touch someone or even be there in person, how we cheer each other on, or dry each other’s tears, how we connect with those who need it most, those who need calm or focus encouragement or inspiration.

All this has done is prove what we already know: that human connection is vital. As a musician and entertainer, it’s always been at the heart of everything I do, and everything I love. Throughout my career, it’s always been my goal to reach out and connect with others through music. Everything I do at home, in the studio or on that stage, lights, sound, music, everything, it’s all done with the goal of connection. I want to connect to the people in those seats, to bring us a moment we can all share together.

Graduates, you are a generation that understands community. I see in my daughters and I see in you a passion to understand and help others; an awareness of the bigger picture of humanity; a willingness to show up for each other; a wholly elevated level of care and attention to the world and the footprint we make with it. We will get back to a new normal, and as we do, I challenge you graduates to become leaders who guide us with the beacon of human connection.

Be innovative in your leadership. Be the leaders who value gathering over division, empathy over dominance, and love over fear.

Your jumping off point into adulthood is completely unprecedented. It’s true. I believe that you are the generation best suited for it. You’ve seen what division looks like and your hunger to bring this world together is like no other. We need you, graduates.

Let everything you do — your work, your charitable giving, your art, your inventions, your hobbies, your unique way of solving problems and your relationships — be the inspiration that empowers a deeper human connection, for all people. Watch that human connection make you better than you ever imagined. Let it hold you up when you fall on hard times, let it fuel your goals, let it bring you joy, let it be everyone’s light in the darkness. When fate allows, gather and celebrate all you’ve achieved. In small or large groups, for a common purpose or a greater good, or just to escape and be in the moment, swaying to the music, taken to another place in time.

To the moms and dads out there, good job. To the graduates, we wish you everything your heart can dream and more. None of you will forget the lessons you’ve learned. Make sure you teach others, have faith in humanity, trust in yourselves, be the person people can count on, and believe there is good in everyone.

When life proves you wrong, don’t stop believing. Never ever stop believing.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.
@alisonbonaguro