Abby Wambach's Graduation Speech Will Leave You Feeling Truly Inspired

abby wambach commencement speech at barnard college

Girl power to the tenth degree.

Abby Wambach Barnard Graduation Speech

Abby Wambach is one of the best female soccer players in the world. She's a decorated player, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Women's World Cup champion, and former captain of the national team. She has won the coveted U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Award and is the highest all-time goal scorer for the United States national team. I was lucky enough, in the sixth grade to attend a camp where she was a coach. I have fond memories of that time and she only solidified why I loved soccer so much.

For young (and old) female soccer players, she is the embodiment of the sport, a class act on and off the field who makes mistakes like the rest of us. She is an icon and the perfect role model for young women. Which is why her graduation speech for the class of 2018 at Barnard College is so powerful.

She blasted the way girls are treated, citing "Little Red Riding Hood".

"I stayed on the path out of fear, not of being eaten by a wolf, but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this: ‘Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf.'"

And she evoked change within the graduates, to break barriers and think outside boxes that were set for women.

"Our landscape is overrun with archaic ways of thinking about women, about people of color, about the ‘other,' about the rich and the poor, about the powerful and the powerless — and these ways of thinking are destroying us. We are the ones we've been waiting for".

"We will not Little Red Riding Hood our way through life. We will unite our pack, storm the valley together and change the whole bloody system".


Wambach set the bar high for the graduates who are entering the real world. Champion other women, rise others up who don't have the same opportunities, and work as a team, not against each other.

"As you go out into the world: Amplify each other's voices. Demand seats for women, people of color and all marginalized people at every table where decisions are made. Call out each other's wins, and just like we do on the field claim the success of one woman as a collective success for all women."

It's advice that works for middle school, as well as it works for college graduates, as well as it works for midlife. It's beautiful and, best of all, it's doable.

Make Your Failure Your Fuel

And most importantly, she brought up failure. She reminded the graduates, failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to push you forward.

"Here's something the best athletes understand, but seems like a hard concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don't know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright—and they end up wasting it".

"Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be POWERED by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel".

For the full transcription of the speech, read it here