Skip to main content

Top Commencement Speeches of The Past 10 Years


Commencement speeches have evolved considerably over the years. It used to be that if you had heard one, you had heard them all. People were congratulated on getting through their years of hard work and then encouraged to go on and do great things with their life. It was boring and through the sea of caps and gowns, there were inevitably yawns and people nodding off.

There are now commencement speeches that are exciting, enlightening, and actually causing people to laugh while they listen to not only the introductory speech by someone notable but also by the valedictorian.

Various trends have been seen after a close analysis of speeches given over the past 10 years. These trends can show anyone and everyone not only how to write a great speech so as not to put people to sleep but also what to expect prior to walking across the stage to grab the hard-earned diploma.


Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005


“Truth be told, I never graduated from college…I want to share three stories with you today”


Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech in 2005 and was probably one of the most notable commencement speeches that have been given. The entire thing was captured to view, though there was a common trend started within the speech: tell the truth.

Jobs used some comedy, but he also used a lot of truth within his speech. He talked about how he did not graduate from college and how this was the closest to graduation he has ever come. He also told three stories to the people who were graduating from Stanford. He talked about connecting the dots, love and loss, and death. These three stories summed it up to tell people to figure out what they loved to do, connect the dots, and remember to live each day as though it were their last. It was good advice and that much better coming from the CEO of Apple.

David McCullough, Wellesley High School in 2012


“Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective…bride-centric pageantry…”




David McCullough decided to take an comparative approach when he addressed Wellesley High School in 2012. He demonstrated that there is a lot of hard work involved with graduating and that it is one of the most important things that a person can do. He said that graduation cannot be considered to be in the same realm as a wedding because a wedding is one sided and “bride-centric” and he then went on to use some comedy to talk about how men did not get any say in weddings and referenced some of the bridezilla-esque shows that are on TV.

Throughout the speech, he focused on the importance of the accomplishment and used comedy periodically to make sure everyone was staying alert.


Stephen Colbert, University of Virginia in 2013


“Take a moment and follow my Twitter feed in case I tweet anything during the speech”



Stephen Colbert used a lot of comedy, which was only natural because it is what he was known for. Instead of telling everyone to turn off their phones, he used reverse psychology and told everyone to turn them on because he didn’t want to be responsible for someone missing a tweet or a text. He took it a step further and gave everyone his Twitter handle so that people could follow it.

He also used relevant information throughout the speech in order to hit home with the generation that he was talking to. This includes going into how people are self-obsessed and the Time Magazine article that referenced Millennials being the “me, me, me” generation. He also talked about the hard lesson that everyone has to learn about paving a path for themselves.

Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009


“I broke it down myself: common and cement”




Ellen DeGeneres took the route of comedy throughout her speech in order to keep everyone laughing, including the dean who shared the stage with her. She made everyone laugh by commenting on how she didn’t go to college and while she didn’t want to tell anyone they wasted their time and money, she’s a big success. It’s true to a point and this is why she was a popular commencement speech. She didn’t sugar-coat anything.

Ellen has had her share of struggles in and out of the limelight and she takes a comedic approach but focuses on very serious topics. This includes living a life with integrity and not giving into peer pressure. She is quoted as telling everyone at Tulane University “don’t take anyone’s advice”.

There are always new commencement speeches being given and while the delivery changes from speaker to speaker, the advice stays the same: create your own path and don’t listen to what others have to say.

The most common approaches include:

  • Telling the truth
  • Making comparison
  • Using relevant concepts
  • Comedy

Anyone can be a successful commencement speaker as long as they follow these four approaches, or a combination of them. The trends rely on knowing the people of the school and the generation in which you are speaking to, which Colbert did especially well when he called the Millennials out for being the “me” generation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Social Media in College

Social media and college almost go hand in hand. There are a few college courses that even use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to start discussion pages and post content related to class. College age kids use social media a lot.

Dorms Housing Problems

For college students, having a safe, comfortable place to live is an essential part of being able to focus and do good work in school. But whether it's a convenient on-campus dorm or an off-campus apartment, student housing presents challenges that students need to consider before they decide where to live each semester.  One of the clearest problems in student housing is the need students have to find places to live that are close to campus. On-campus dormitories and apartments offer one solution, but many larger universities have so many students that auxiliary campuses and buses are the only way to provide enough accessible housing.  High demand for student housing near urban campuses or large schools may cause real estate prices to rise, making nearby apartments and rental houses unaffordable for students. Off-campus housing also places the burden of paying for utility service and commuting to and from campus on the students themselves. For students who take ou

Where to Get Sheets For an Adjustable Split King Bed

Experts in health agree that getting a good night's sleep is crucial to your health and well-being for a number of different reasons. Of course, you know how a lack of sleep makes you feel irritable and on edge all day. However, a persistent shortage of sleep can also wreak havoc on your physical health as well. Your immune system can suffer, allowing you to fall victim to colds, the flu, and other illnesses more easily. It is also likely that you will feel less alert and mentally prepared which can be hazardous if you are driving. Two Twin XL Beds Combined Of course, knowing you need to get an adequate amount of sleep in order to function at your very best is one thing. The reality of being able to get that sleep that you so desperately need can be quite different. This is especially true if you have a loved one that you share a bed with. No matter how much you might love them, you could find their preferences for mattress firmness and thickness to be lacking as