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What makes a good graduation speech?

nglez09nglez09 Registered User Posts: 186 Junior Member
edited June 2009 in Parent Cafe
In light of the imminence of graduation, I wanted to start a thread to have parents (and others) shed light on what their favorite graduation (either valedictorian, salutatorian, commencement, student speaker, etc.) speeches have been and why they have been memorable.

I know I personally like humor but very few people in my opinion can pull it off. I much prefer a profound (not corny) message that's coupled with a student's perspective of what lies ahead...

I've heard some really great analogies, metaphors, similes and refrains in speeches that make them very memorable.

But in all honesty, that probably was from one or two speeches since most students that I've heard haven't been that great of writers.
Post edited by nglez09 on

Replies to: What makes a good graduation speech?

  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,548 Senior Member
    Brevity, if it's an outdoor graduation on a hot day.

    Come to think of it, brevity is a good idea even indoors or in cool weather.

    Let's face it, nobody comes to the graduation for the speaker.
  • edadedad Registered User Posts: 2,584 Senior Member
    Shorter is better.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    Should have some that make people laugh and also be on a shorter side. If it is not entertaining, people will not listen, if they hear that people are lughing, they will pay attention.
  • 2VU06092VU0609 Registered User Posts: 3,067 Senior Member
    I don't know the formula, but I wish someone would define it and send it to Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos before I have to sit through another of his speeches in 2011. He seems to be SUCH a nice man and an excellent administrator, but his speech last week was way too long and was uninspiring. Many of the parents at D's sorority reception afterwards were commenting on the length and nature of the speech. I guess he is proof that none of us can do it all!
    Actually, Marian's comment that nobody comes to hear the speaker would be the best advice for most commencement speakers, though we had Doris Kearns Goodwin for Senior Day last Thursday and she was wonderful.
  • bulletandpimabulletandpima Registered User Posts: 9,826 Senior Member
    marian and edad are right!

    Kids want to get their diploma, parents want to hear their kids name...everything else is just killing time.

    Besides that make it funny!
  • lje62lje62 Registered User Posts: 5,559 Senior Member
    Last year, one of my daughter's classmates parents arranged for a banner plane to flyover with a message of congratulations during the graduation ceremony. It happened while the valedictorian's speech. It was pretty annoying and I am guessing that her family was upset about it . The plane circled several times and drowned out the entire speech.
    I like to hear the speeches as long as they are short, sweet with a little humor.
  • astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom Registered User Posts: 4,326 Senior Member
    short, funny, and if delivered by a high school kid, it should sound like it came from a high school kid. (avoid cliches, and.....um..... religion). In our public high school a couple of years ago (we're firmly entrenched in the Bible Belt), the salutatorian's speech went from predictable to her own testimonial about her Lord, Jesus Christ. About half the people in the venue applauded, the other half squirmed uncomfortably and muttered under their breath. Val's speech followed and was short, funny, and was cheered loudly when it started, "We're Done!"
  • pugmadkatepugmadkate Registered User Posts: 5,888 Senior Member
    Brevity, brevity, brevity.

    A few words to the parents and friends is nice but is should be addressed to the students with a celebratory tone.

    Did I mention it should be brief?
  • lje62lje62 Registered User Posts: 5,559 Senior Member
    my step daughter's high school salutatorian used the podium last year to grip about how she should have been the val and it was the school board's politics that made her #2..poor taste and judgement in my opinion.
  • bulletandpimabulletandpima Registered User Posts: 9,826 Senior Member
    Very poor taste, but unfortunately it is not uncommon.

    The other thing is don't be the family that doesn't follow the instruction not to clap. It really adds on time to the ceremony, and as soon as the 1st family breaks it, you can be sure everybody else will continue.
  • HisGraceFillsMeHisGraceFillsMe Registered User Posts: 4,782 Senior Member
    Our high school didn't have valedictorians, but one of the boys who spoke made the most awesome speech. He did the traditional stuff about commencement meaning "beginning", and then made some good jokes.

    We had (public high school) uniforms that everyone hated. My favorite line in his speech was "We are moving on to a place where khakis and white polo shirts are no longer a fashion statement!"

    Every single graduate applauded that line.

    That's the only thing I honestly remember, but I remember really enjoying both of the speeches made by students (although I was friends with both of them, so I was biased).
  • amtcamtc Registered User Posts: 2,863 Senior Member
    While I agree with the short and somewhat funny I disagree that no one wants to hear it. Perhaps because we live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and has since kindergarten or before, just about everyone listens and pays attention to the speech. This actually makes it more stressful. My daughter is the salutatorian and has already been told that she "better" be good because last years' was not so good and the valedictorian is not a good speaker so the pressure is on. Any suggestions?
  • chuychuy Registered User Posts: 3,916 Senior Member
    Short, funny, DON'T READ OFF OF NOTECARDS.
  • JustaMomJustaMom Registered User Posts: 2,386 Senior Member
    My HS graduation speech (when dinosaurs roamed) was the 10 person a cappella group singing a rousing rendition of Sha Na Na's Get a Job, after being told, "I have one piece of advice for all of you"....after the song, came "class dismissed".....

    There wasn't a dry eye in the place whether from laughing or crying. And nearly 35 years later the memory still makes me smile.
  • JS62JS62 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    My D's IB class graduated together with the regular seniors from the high school the IB program was housed in. The two valedictorians and salutatorians were each seated on the platform during the ceremony. The valedictorian of the regular class made his speech into a person testimony about not only his relationship with Jesus Christ but about the ills of the public school system that doesn't allow God, prayer, etc. It was especially awkward considering the val and sal for the IB class was Hindu and Jewish respectively.
This discussion has been closed.