What Would You Say?

Graduation speeches are hard to write.  They must be – I have sat through a score of wretched ones.  I’m sure you have too.  The three good ones I heard are memorable because they were so rare.

The most recent speech I heard was a monotone, tiresome recitation of the speaker’s career changes, a boring oral curriculum vitae.  The speaker’s main assets seemed to be fashion-model good looks and the fact that he worked for the richest couple on earth.  Ayup. 

So what are the key parts to a graduation speech? 

Acknowledgment of work completed, without fawning, blarney and adulation.
Thankfulness for the people who helped you get to this place.
A charge or admonition. 

Am I missing anything?

Neil Postman wrote a graduation speech before he died giving permission for anyone to use it.  It is worth the ten minutes it takes to read it. 

What do you think are the key ingredients to a good commencement address? 

Do you know of other great speeches online?

I’m asking.

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5 thoughts on “What Would You Say?

  1. Really a very good question…. few if any are memorable to me.  If I remember correctly Frank Shakespeare spoke at my college graduation, but I can recollect NOTHING of what he said.Missing *key* ingredient – it cant be too long, not sure how many minutes that is.  Guess it could depend, but that timing issue is crucial IMHO :)Off to read Postman.

  2. I liked the Postman speech- it wasn’t too long and I’m a history buff anyway.  It took me a minute to realize you were seeing it from the view of a college graduation- we’ve been involved in a week of high school end-of-year activities here.  The Postman speech wouldn’t fly well there, no?Sad that people who are famous for other things don’t decline to speak if they know they are unskilled and/or ambivalent about public speaking.

  3. We’ve asked Cassie’s youth pastor to speak at our homeschool graduation.  There are 4 graduates and two of them attend the speaker’s youth group.  He told Cassie he plans to speak about God’s paths for our life.  I’m very excited to hear him speak as Cassie thinks so highly of him and loves going to his youth group.When Luke graduated, we asked a couple from our homeschool group who are both doctors to speak.  They also talked about following God’s path in our lives, even when it leads to difficult choices. (She gave up her medical career to homeschool her two daughters!)  It was a very good speech.I cannot remember either of the speeches at my two graduation ceremonies.  I’m not sure, though, if that is a sign of how boring they were or the fact that it’s been nearly 30 years since the first.

  4. The three good ones were from Christian school or home school graduations.  I quoted from one in 2006 here.  What I appreciated about those three graduations is that they didn’t say: “You are the greatest. You are the future.  You are the hope.”  Their messages were: “Trust in God.” “Finish well.”  “Be careful.” “Use the gifts God has given you for His glory, not for yours.”  That kind of thing.I really can’t remember many specifics but I remember the tone and I remember wholeheartedly agreeing with the speaker.  

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