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After Orlando, we need these graduation speakers’ inspiring words more than ever

Over the past month or so, celebrities, politicians, business leaders and other high-profile figures have stood before 2016 graduating classes all over the country offering them words of inspiration and encouragement for their futures. It’s an annual rite of passage before graduates are set free to find their place in the world.

For the 49 people killed in Orlando a week ago, most only in their 20s and 30s, their opportunities were cut tragically short, their futures stolen. Stories from victims’ families and friends tell of lives lived and of big dreams, some realized and others yet unfulfilled.

Their deaths are a reminder, a call to action, to create the changes we want for ourselves, for our communities and for the world. They make the words of the graduation speakers that much more poignant and integral.

There was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon, who saw friends beaten and spoke of never backing down. There was Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who unexpectedly lost her husband and spoke of finding meaning after loss. There was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton,” whose parents were born in Puerto Rico and spoke about the power of immigrants.

Here are a few of our favorite 2016 graduation speakers. Let their words be the hope we could all use a little more of right now.

Nine of this year's most inspiring graduation speeches (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
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