Janet Yellen Jumps on the Failure Bandwagon in NYU Commencement Speech

A blog about business and economics.
May 21 2014 6:48 PM

Janet Yellen to NYU Grads: “You Won’t Succeed All the Time”

Janet Yellen during commencement ceremonies for NYU at Yankee Stadium.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen delivered a trendy cliché in her commencement address on Wednesday: You will fail.

Speaking to the New York University Class of 2014 at Yankee Stadium, Yellen told graduates that they won't always be successful. "Even Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio failed most of the time when they stepped to the plate," she said. "My Federal Reserve colleagues and I experienced this as we struggled to address a financial and economic crisis that threatened the global economy." She also praised the values of intellectual curiosity and grit, and the courage Ben Bernanke showed at the helm of the central bank during the financial crisis.


Yellen is in good company with her topic choice, if not the most original. Telling graduates that they'll fail is a time-honored tradition among Harvard commencement speakers. Luminaries such as Bill Gates, Conan O'Brien, and J.K. Rowling are among the people that have imparted the message. If you want to see how they broached the topic, you're in luck: Slate put together a CliffsNotes version. And to see a clip of Yellen's speech, check out the video below.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.