Graduates get pep talks before facing tough times

Source: Carolyn Bigda - Chicago Tribune

Graduation season brings with it a flurry of commencement speeches meant to rouse the spirits and inspire. Judging by recent data, graduates may need as much help as they can get.

Outstanding student loan debt now totals nearly $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, exceeding the balance of consumer auto loans, as well as credit cards.

And the jobless rate among recent graduates remains elevated. According to a study this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.6 percent of college grads ages 20 to 29 were unemployed as of October 2011, the latest date for which data are available, compared with 7.7 percent during the same month in 2007.

So what encouragement is being doled out to graduates in this kind of environment? Here, excerpts from a few recent commencement speeches.

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