How to Write a Commencement Speech as a Guest Speaker (Ideas, Tips, Examples)

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

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Have you found yourself in the exhilarating position of being chosen to give the keynote speech at a graduation ceremony?

Picture this: The campus is abuzz with activity, and families and friends are flocking in from far and wide. It’s a reunion like no other, where loved ones meet classmates and faculty, celebrating connections that will last a lifetime. It’s a moment of joy, of celebration, and yes, a tad bittersweet, as it marks the end of the graduates’ time in this hallowed institution.

And soon, you’ll be at that podium, delivering the keynote address. What an honor! It means you’re a shining star in your field, highly respected and admired. You’ve been entrusted with the task of inspiring these eager minds before you.

Take these suggestions as friendly advice based on my observations of over 50 commencement speeches. These tips will guide you in crafting an original, inspiring, and memorable commencement speech. They aren’t set in stone or meant to limit your approach to speechwriting. Instead, think of them as a springboard to craft your own unique and captivating address.

👉 3 commencement speech examples

How do I structure the content of my commencement speech?

Use the  Past-Present-Future framework  as your guide. This is a great starting point, and feel free to play around with this outline as you develop your speech.

Theme: What’s the main message that ties your speech together? If the graduation already has a theme, include it.

Opening: Thank the people who invited you to speak. Introduce yourself.

Key Idea 1: (Past) Share stories and observations from your journey and the graduates’ journeys.

Key Idea 2: (Present) Give 3 pieces of advice.

Key Idea 3: (Future) Frame your advice in the broader context of the graduates’ futures.

Closing: Give a call to action. Tie it back to your theme.

💡 Pro tip:  Your graduation speech should include at least 1 or 2 stories. Stories will make your speech personal and engaging.

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

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How can I make sure my commencement speech resonates with my audience?

Imagine a colorful tapestry of people gathered before you. We have the graduates, bright-eyed and ready to conquer the world. We have their loved ones bursting with pride and joy. Then there are the staff, faculty members, and administrators, all dedicated to nurturing minds and shaping futures.

Here’s the deal: This speech isn’t about you. Nope! It’s about the graduates and their guests. It’s a moment to honor the accomplishments made by these remarkable individuals and their loved ones. It’s not the time to spotlight your own achievements or use it as a platform for self-promotion.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who is my audience? What are their backgrounds? What are their identities? Why are they here?

What would make my talk worthwhile for them?

Why would they care about me and my journey?

If they don’t know who I am, what would make them feel connected to me?

That’s not to say you can’t talk about your accomplishments. In fact, your audience is expecting to hear about those! The key is to frame your achievements in ways that provide value to your audience. For example, if you’ve written a best-selling book, you can ask yourself: Why would my audience care that I accomplished this? What struggles of mine can they relate to? What lessons can they apply to their own lives?

How long should my commencement speech be?

The length of a commencement speech can vary depending on the ceremony.

As a general rule of thumb, aim for a speech that’s 10 to 15 minutes long.

Give yourself enough time to cover all the main ideas you want to share. At the same time, make it short enough so you don’t bore or tire your audience. Finding that sweet spot is key.

💡 Pro tip:  Time your speech beforehand. And don’t just do it once. Rehearse it several times to make sure it flows smoothly and fits within the time limit. That way, you can go into the graduation ceremony with the confidence of knowing you’ve got this speech thing down pat.

How can I make my commencement speech memorable?

Let’s talk about how to make your commencement speech memorable.

Connect with your audience: Talk to the graduates on a personal level. Use language they can understand easily. Talk about what motivates or concerns them. Use relatable examples. Lead with emotion. Use the “you.”

Think tweets: Make your messages bite-size. Craft your sentences so they’re easy for someone to share on social media.

Share a story: Stories are powerful tools to capture the attention and emotions of your audience. Recount a personal anecdote that your audience can relate to. Try to surprise them.

Use humor: Humor can be a great way to lighten the mood and make your speech more enjoyable. Use appropriate humor.

Share a quote: Quotes are a great way to add wisdom and inspiration to your speech. Use a quote from a famous person, book, or movie that highlights your message and that your audience can remember. This can help reinforce your theme and make it more motivational.

What are some tips for delivering a successful commencement speech?

Delivering a great commencement speech requires a bit of preparation and practice. Here are some tips to help you nail your delivery:

Prepare in advance: Don’t procrastinate! Write it down, rehearse it several times, and time it to ensure it fits within the time limit. Use feedback from others to improve your speech.

Speak clearly and slowly: Avoid mumbling or jumbling words. Keep your chin up, speak slowly enough for people to understand you, and use pauses to highlight important words.

Use your body: Your body language can add oomph to your speech. Use your hands, face, and posture to help express your emotions and message. And don’t forget to make eye contact to connect with your audience!

Manage your nerves: It’s normal to be a little jittery before speaking, but try to relax by taking deep breaths, visualizing yourself rocking the speech, and remembering that your audience is rooting for you to succeed.

Use the “you”: When you use “you,” “we,” and “us,” you invite your audience into your speech. It’s a simple technique, and it makes a powerful difference. So when you review a draft of your speech, look for how to use “you” as often as possible.

Be yourself: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Speak from the heart, stay true to your values, and let your personality shine through. Remember, you’re the guest speaker for a reason!

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

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How can I make my commencement speech meaningful?

Creating a meaningful commencement speech is all about being true to yourself and connecting with your audience. Here are some tips to make your speech meaningful:

Stay positive:  Focus on the good things about your journey. Encourage people to chase their dreams and make a difference in the world. No need to be mean or snarky, even toward your nemeses and naysayers. Keep it respectful.

Be inclusive:  Use language that is inclusive and respectful to all members of your audience. Avoid stereotypes based on gender, age, or cultural background.

Show empathy:  Tap into the graduates’ experiences and emotions. What would they want to hear about? What would make your speech meaningful to them? Share stories that resonate with them and show that you care about their perspective. Use emotional language to really connect with them. It can be as simple as naming the emotion: “I’m sure you’re just like I was at your age and anxious about what’s to come…” or “I know you’ve all been through a lot to get here….”

What should I avoid when writing a valedictorian speech?

Some common mistakes can detract from your message.

Avoid sugarcoating: Yes, life can be serendipitous and magical, and it’s important to paint an optimistic picture. But what will make people really invested in your speech is honesty and candidness about obstacles you’ve faced. Just think of your favorite movie or T.V. show—there are always hardships and setbacks. Reassure the graduates that they don’t need to win every contest or have good fortune all the time.

Avoid clichés: Steer clear of overused phrases that don’t have any originality or authenticity to them. Use your own words to share your message.

Avoid arrogance: Stay humble. You don’t want to come across as egotistic or condescending when talking about your achievements or your classmates. Keep a humble and respectful tone that shows gratitude and appreciation.

Avoid controversial topics: You don’t want to discuss anything that might offend or divide your audience. Keep things upbeat and inspiring so that everyone can relate to your message.

Avoid sensitive language: Don’t use inappropriate language, jokes, or stories that could offend or embarrass anyone in your audience. Keep things respectful and appropriate for all ages and backgrounds.

Avoid rambling: We all appreciate speakers who carefully choose their words, get straight to the point, and conclude with a flourish.

Avoid jargon: Don’t get lost in technicalities. A touch of history or technical detail can be helpful to illustrate a point, but too much can blur your message.

Avoid making fun of other people: Strike a balance between gravity and levity. You can poke fun at yourself, but be careful about poking fun at others. You don’t want to put people down. Even if your intent is good-natured, your message might not be received that way.

What are some creative ways to start a commencement speech?

When it comes to writing the opening of your commencement speech, it can be challenging to set the tone for the rest of your speech. But don’t worry. Here are some creative ways to get you started:

Share a quote: You can start your speech with a powerful quote that relates to your message and sticks in the graduates’ minds.

Use humor: Start with a funny story, joke, or pun related to the graduation. You can include a few jokes. Just be careful not to go overboard with the humor.

Tell a story: Share a personal story. It can be from your earlier years or even just last week!

Ask a rhetorical question: Start your speech with a rhetorical question that prompts your classmates to think about your message and engages them.

Use a metaphor: Introduce some symbolism that relates to your message and paints a vivid picture.

What are some topics to discuss in a commencement speech?

Choosing a theme for your commencement speech can be a real head-scratcher. The key is to weave stories into your speech. Stories that are specific and colorful will keep your audience engaged and entertained. Let’s take a look at some possible themes:

Gratitude: Think of someone who had a life-altering influence on your journey—maybe a mentor, family member, or friend—and share a story about them. You can even reveal a little “secret” about this person you think the audience should know. This will give your speech a more intimate feel.

Cherished memories: Ah, memories. They can be a great way to connect with your audience. Share meaningful memories from times you and your audience have shared, such as major world events or holidays. Try to find a common theme among those memories that can become the theme for your entire speech.

Achievements: As the guest speaker, you’ve achieved a lot, as have the graduates. So why not celebrate those achievements and reflect on the hard work, dedication, and perseverance that led you all to this moment? Use your journey as an example, and inspire the graduates to continue pursuing their achievements.

Change: Reflect on the changes and challenges you or the graduates have faced during your journeys. For example, how has the pandemic impacted you and the graduates? Or how did major advances in technology bring people closer together?

The future: Share your aspirations and goals, and encourage the graduates to pursue their dreams and positively impact the world. This will be a nice contrast to the stories you tell about the past.

What is the best way to end a commencement speech?

Ending a commencement speech is just as important as starting it. The conclusion should leave a lasting impression on your audience and end on a high note. Here are ways you can end your speech:

Tie it back to your theme: Take a moment to summarize your key ideas and highlight the key takeaways of your speech. This will help reinforce your message and ensure that your audience remembers it.

Use humor: End your speech with a lighthearted joke or pun that leaves your audience smiling and wraps up your message nicely.

Express gratitude: Take a moment to thank people who have supported your graduates throughout their journeys. Showing appreciation can create an uplifting ending to your speech.

Encourage action: Inspire your audience to take action based on your message. Encourage people to pursue their passions or make a positive impact.

Share a quote: End your speech with a powerful quote that relates to your message and that your audience can remember. Leave people with a thought-provoking idea.

💡 Pro tip:  In the closing of your speech, avoid thanking people from your own life or putting the spotlight on yourself. At this point in your speech, people are ready for it to end, and they’ll disengage if you continue talking about yourself.

How can I find inspiration for my commencement speech?

Finding inspiration for your commencement speech can be challenging, but there are many ways to get inspired. Here are some tips:

Reflect on your experiences: Look back at your journey, and think about the moments that made a real impact on you. Your personal experiences, thoughts, and values are all great sources of inspiration.

Just start writing! Grab your phone (or a pen and paper) and jot down all the ideas that come to your mind, no matter how silly or impossible they seem. You never know—one of those ideas could become a great speech!

Talk to people: Bouncing your ideas off others is always good. Talk to your family, friends, and mentors for their perspectives and insights. They may have valuable ideas and feedback to help you shape your speech.

Research: Listen to other commencement and inspirational speeches to get some ideas. Reflect on what works and what doesn’t.

And don’t forget to have fun with it! This is your moment to shine, so enjoy it and make the most of it. Good luck!

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

Download Speeko (iOS/macOS) to brainstorm stories for your commencement speech.

🎬 Example 1

Theme:  Writing your own story

Opening:  Good morning, esteemed faculty, honored guests, and most importantly, the incredible graduates of this extraordinary institution. I am deeply honored to stand before you today as your commencement speaker. I want to express my sincere gratitude to the organizers for this incredible opportunity. My name is [Name], and I have had the privilege of leading one of the most iconic entertainment companies in the world. But today, I’m not here as a CEO; I’m here as a fellow traveler on the journey of life, eager to share my experiences and insights with all of you.

Key Idea 1: (Past)  As we gather here today, each of us brings a unique story. My own journey has been one of constant change, and I’m sure many of you can relate. Life rarely follows a straight path, and it’s in those unexpected detours that we often find our greatest growth. I remember facing numerous challenges and setbacks along the way, but it was through those trials that I discovered my resilience and capacity for reinvention.

Let me share a personal story that illustrates the power of embracing change. Early in my career, I found myself working at a struggling television network. The industry was undergoing a seismic shift, with emerging technologies and changing viewer habits reshaping the landscape. It was a time of uncertainty, and many believed that traditional media was on the verge of obsolescence.

Instead of resisting the winds of change, I chose to lean into it. I recognized the potential of emerging platforms and technologies, and I saw an opportunity to redefine the way stories were told and consumed. We took bold risks, embraced digital innovation, and transformed the network into a global entertainment powerhouse. Through perseverance and a willingness to adapt, we not only survived but thrived in the face of disruption.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson: Change is not something to be feared but rather an opportunity for growth and reinvention. Graduates, as you navigate the uncertainties of your own journeys, remember that the most significant rewards often come from embracing the unknown and charting new paths.

I encourage you to reflect on your own journeys. Recall the moments of triumph and the moments of defeat, for both have played an essential role in shaping who you are today. Embrace your past, learn from it, and carry those lessons forward as you embark on this new chapter of your life.

Key Idea 2: (Present)  Now, let me share with you three pieces of advice that have served me well in navigating the complexities of the present.

First, embrace change. We live in a rapidly evolving world where innovation and disruption have become the norm. Embracing change allows us to see opportunities where others see obstacles. It’s the willingness to adapt, to challenge the status quo, and to continuously learn that will set you apart.

Second, nurture your relationships. Success is seldom achieved alone. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, push you to grow, and believe in your potential. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with extraordinary individuals who have shaped and influenced my journey. One such person was a mentor who saw potential in me when I doubted myself. This mentor provided guidance, challenged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, and instilled in me a belief in my abilities. Their belief in me fueled my confidence and propelled me to new heights. It was through their mentorship and the support of countless others that I could overcome obstacles and achieve success. These relationships not only enriched my professional life but also brought immense joy and fulfillment to my personal life.

Third, never stop dreaming. The power of imagination knows no bounds. Dare to dream big, to envision a world that is better, brighter, and more inclusive. It is through audacious dreams that we have seen remarkable progress throughout history. So, be bold in your ambitions, and have the courage to pursue your passions, even when the odds seem stacked against you.

Key Idea 3: (Future)  As you look to the future, I urge you to consider your role in shaping it. The world is in dire need of innovative thinkers, compassionate leaders, and advocates for positive change. Each of you has the power to make a difference, to contribute to the betterment of society in your own unique way.

But remember, the journey ahead will not always be smooth. There will be moments of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. Embrace those moments as opportunities for growth. Take risks, learn from failures, and never lose sight of your core values. In a world that often feels divided, let empathy guide your actions and decisions. Seek common ground, build bridges, and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Closing:  I want to leave you with a call to action. Embrace change, nurture relationships, and never stop dreaming. Embody the spirit of curiosity, resilience, and compassion as you go forth and write your own story. Remember, it is in the face of adversity that the most remarkable chapters of our lives are written.

Graduates, the world needs your unique talents, your fresh perspectives, and your unwavering determination. Seize the opportunities that come your way, and remember that even the smallest actions can have a profound impact. Together, let’s build a world where every individual can thrive, where creativity flourishes, and where kindness reigns.

Congratulations, Class of [Graduation Year]! May you find fulfillment and purpose in the pursuit of your dreams. Thank you, and best of luck on your extraordinary journey ahead!

🎸 Example 2

Theme:  Resilience

Opening:  Thank you so much for having me here today. I have to admit, when I got the call to give this commencement speech, I was like, “Are you sure you’ve got the right [Name]?” But here I am, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate this incredible milestone with all of you.

Before we dive in, let me introduce myself. I’m [Name], a singer-songwriter, cat enthusiast, and professional overthinker. And today, I’m here to share a few stories and hopefully make you smile, think a few new things, and maybe have a fresh perspective on what’s ahead of you.

Key Idea 1: (Past)  Let’s start by thinking about the past. Some of you might have faced challenges and maybe even had a few shake-it-off moments. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of those too. Back in high school, I was the awkward, nerdy girl with big dreams and even bigger glasses. I remember auditioning for the school musical and completely butchering my audition song. It was a cringe-worthy moment that made me question if I had any talent at all.

But you know what? I didn’t let that failure define me. I dusted myself off, practiced harder, and eventually landed the lead role in the following year’s production. That experience taught me the power of resilience and the importance of pushing through those moments of doubt.

Here’s the thing: Setbacks and failures don’t define you. They’re just pit stops on the road to success.

I also remember when I was just starting out in the music industry. I was rejected by so many record labels. They said I didn’t fit the mold, that I wasn’t marketable. But instead of giving up, I decided to write my own story and create my own mold. And look at where we are now. So, embrace your unique journey and remember that the world needs your originality.

Key Idea 2: (Present)  Now, let’s think about where we are today. You’re probably all feeling a little trepidatious about what’s to come. Here are three pieces of advice I want to share with you that will hopefully get you excited about what’s coming.

First, never underestimate the power of staying true to yourself. As many of you know, I’ve been in the spotlight for quite some time, and with that comes a fair share of criticism. I’ve been labeled as too pop, too country, too this, too that. It’s enough to make anyone question their authenticity.

But instead of letting those criticisms bring me down, I chose to embrace my true self and let my music speak for itself. I realized that I couldn’t please everyone, and that’s okay. The moment I stopped trying to fit into other people’s boxes and started being unapologetically me, that’s when everything changed.

Second, surround yourself with people who lift you up. The journey can be harrowing, but it’s a lot more fun when you have a squad by your side. Find your ride-or-dies—your cheerleaders—and keep them close. And hey, if you find a friend who appreciates your puns as much as mine do, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Third, take risks and embrace failure. Yes, failure can be scary. But it’s also a great teacher. My own failures have been some of my biggest blessings in disguise. So, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and learn from your missteps. Remember, it’s not the number of falls that matters but the number of times you get back up.

Key Idea 3: (Future)  And finally, let’s think about the future. A little scary, right? You’re about to enter a world filled with endless possibilities. It’s like a blank space waiting to be filled with your dreams and aspirations. But with that comes a lot of uncertainty.

I want to remind you that it’s okay to not have all the answers right now. Life is a series of plot twists, and we can’t always predict what’s around the corner. But that’s where resilience comes in. When life throws you a curveball—and believe me, it will—you have the power to adapt, to rise above, and to come back stronger.

Embrace change, because it’s often in the most unexpected moments that we find our true selves. Your path might take unexpected turns, and that’s okay. Keep your head up, your heart open, and your dancing shoes on, because you never know when a great beat is about to drop.

Closing:  So, graduates, as you embark on this exciting new chapter, my call to action for you is simple: Embrace the power of resilience. Remember that setbacks are just setups for comebacks. Embrace your unique journey, work hard, surround yourself with uplifting people, take risks, and never be afraid to get back up after a fall.

And don’t be afraid to let your unique voice and talents shine. Embrace your quirks, celebrate your individuality, and never apologize for being authentically yourself. In a world that’s constantly trying to mold you, be the one who breaks the mold.

In the words of one of my favorite songwriters James Taylor, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” So, trust in yourself, believe in your dreams, and go out there and write your own beautiful, messy, and extraordinary stories.

Congratulations, Class of [Year]! You’re ready to take on the world, and I can’t wait to see all the incredible things you’ll accomplish. Now go out there and make your mark, because the world is waiting for your magic.

🃏 Example 3

Theme:  Embracing the unexpected

Opening:  Good evening, and thank you to the faculty, everyone’s loved ones, and—most importantly—the graduates. Thank you for having me here. Wow, I can’t believe I’m standing here today. I mean, I’m just a guy who tells jokes for a living. I’m honored to be here.

Now, if you don’t know who I am, I’m [Name], the host of a show where I get paid to make fun of the news. But tonight, I’m not here to make fun of you, graduates. Well, maybe just a little bit. But my main message for you today is this: Life is like a game of chess, and you are the queens and kings ready to conquer it!

First of all, let’s take a moment to appreciate this incredible milestone in your lives. Graduation is a big deal! It’s the moment when you transition from being a student who occasionally naps in class to an adult who occasionally naps at work. Cherish this moment, because soon you’ll be saying goodbye to ramen noodles and hello to a lifetime of avocado toast.

Key Idea 1: (Past)  Each of you has gone through a long and unique journey that has led you to this point. Some of you took the scenic route through multiple majors, while many of you sprinted to the finish line with laser focus. But regardless of your path, remember that life is not a race... unless you’re running from your student loan officer.

I remember when I graduated. I had big dreams of becoming a comedian, but my mom wanted me to be a doctor. So, I compromised and became a comedian who makes jokes about doctors.

When I started hosting my show, I had no experience in political satire or news journalism. I had to dive headfirst into a world that was unfamiliar to me. But that curiosity allowed me to learn, grow, and adapt.

My point is, your journey may not always go as planned. But we embrace the detours, because they often lead us to the most unexpected and rewarding destinations.

Key Idea 2: (Present)  I have three big pieces of advice for you today.

First, never be afraid to fail. Failure is like a rite of passage for successful people. Just ask Thomas Edison. He tried and failed a thousand times before inventing the light bulb. Imagine if he had given up after 999 attempts. We’d all be sitting here in the dark, waiting for someone else to brighten our lives. Embrace failure, learn from it, and then fail again, because that’s how you grow.

I once had a comedy set that went so badly, I could hear crickets chirping. And trust me, there were no actual crickets in the theater. It’s those moments when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom that we find the strength to bounce back even stronger.

Second, embrace your weirdness. We live in a world that loves to put people in boxes, but you don’t have to fit into any box society tries to squeeze you into. Be yourself. Your quirks and uniqueness make you special, so own them and let your freak flag fly high!

Lastly, never underestimate the power of laughter. Laughter is the universal language that can bridge gaps, break down barriers, and bring joy to the darkest moments. Laughter has the power to heal, to unite, and to give yourself a good ab workout. So, keep finding humor in life, especially when times get tough.

And humor is just the older sibling of kindness. In a world that often feels divided and polarized, kindness can be a superpower. It costs nothing to be kind, but it can make all the difference in someone’s day or even their life. So, be kind to others, and be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with compassion, forgive your mistakes, and remember that you’re only human.

Key Idea 3: (Future)  Now graduates, think about what’s ahead of you. You have the power to shape the world in ways that previous generations couldn’t even imagine. But with great power comes great responsibility, like that Spider-Man guy always says. Don’t wait for others to make a difference; be the ones who step up and take action.

And as you embark on this next chapter of your lives, never stop learning, exploring, and questioning the world around you. Remember, curiosity didn’t kill the cat—it made it a more interesting and informed feline. So, don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. You might just discover something amazing about yourself and the world.

Closing:  I want you to take absolutely everything I’ve said today and apply it to your lives. Immediately. No, really, there’s going to be a quiz later. Embrace the power of laughter, learn from your failures, stay curious, be kind, and create your own future. And don’t forget to laugh along the way, because life is too short to take everything too seriously.

Congratulations, Class of [Year]! You did it!

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

Speeko for graduation speeches

Tap into the power of A.I. coaching to unleash your full speaking potential. Use Speeko to prepare, write, and organize your commencement speech. From gathering your stories to using humor, you’ll strengthen your skills and receive invaluable feedback on key areas of your speaking style.

Nico Aguilar

Nico Aguilar is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Speeko.

500+ Best Presentation Topics to Appeal to Any Audience in 2023 and 2024

Speech Writing

Graduation Speech

Barbara P

Crafting the Perfect Graduation Speech: A Guide with Examples

10 min read

Published on: Mar 12, 2020

Last updated on: Nov 7, 2023

Graduation Speech

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Have you ever stood at the threshold of a new journey, feeling a mix of excitement and uncertainty? 

Well, if you're a soon-to-be graduate, that's probably exactly how you're feeling right now.

The big day is coming, and you're wondering, 'How will I write my speech? Can I ask for speech writing help?

Don’t worry!

In this blog, we're going to tell you how to write a graduation speech for students. Get ready to discover the secrets of crafting a graduation speech that not only captures your audience's attention but also leaves a profound impact on your fellow graduates.

Let's transform that uncertainty into inspiration and confidence as we delve into the art of delivering a speech that will make your graduation day truly unforgettable.

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What is a Graduation Speech?

A graduation speech is the heart of your big day, bringing together all your experiences and achievements. 

It's more than just talking – it's a way to inspire and celebrate. It's not just a tradition. This type of speech is a chance to share what you've learned and dream about the future.

Your graduation speech should include everyone – your friends, the tough times you all faced, and the good times you shared. 

Elements of Graduation Speech

Creating a memorable graduation speech involves several key elements that can help you connect with your audience and make a lasting impression. 

Here are the crucial elements you should consider:

All these elements make a strong and memorable speech and help make your graduation successful.

How to Write a Graduation Speech?

Writing an inspirational graduation speech that stands out isn't as daunting as it may seem. 

With a structured approach and a dash of creativity, you can deliver the best special occasion speech that leaves a lasting impact on your audience. 

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to start a graduation speech and create an inspiring address:

Begin with a Memorable Opening 

Start with an attention-grabbing quote, a personal anecdote, or a thought-provoking question. 

This sets the tone for your speech and captures your audience's interest right from the beginning.

Express Gratitude 

Show appreciation to your teachers, parents, and fellow students. 

Express how their support and contributions have been instrumental in your academic journey. This sets a positive and grateful tone for your speech.

Reflect on Meaningful Moments 

Share personal stories and school experiences that have had a significant impact on your life and the lives of your classmates. 

Use these anecdotes to connect with your audience emotionally.

Offer Words of Inspiration 

Provide words of inspiration and motivation. Encourage your fellow graduates to embrace the future with confidence and courage.

Use stories or quotes to illustrate your points.

Share Practical Advice 

Share life lessons and any advice you've learned during your academic journey. 

Offer insights related to pursuing goals, overcoming challenges, and maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Emphasize Unity and Shared Experiences 

Highlight the importance of unity and the bonds formed with your classmates. 

Emphasize the strength of collective experiences and friendships that have been a significant part of your school life.

Discuss Hopes and Dreams 

Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future, both for yourself and your fellow graduates. Paint a vivid picture of the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

End with an Inspiring Conclusion 

Conclude your speech with a memorable message that resonates with your audience. 

Leave them with a lasting impression or a call to action that inspires them to take on the future with enthusiasm.

Graduation Speeches From Notable Figures 

Notable figures, from celebrities to accomplished professionals, often deliver inspiring graduation speeches, sharing their wisdom, experiences, and advice with the graduates. 

In this section, we explore some remarkable graduation speeches that have left a lasting impact on audiences worldwide.

Taylor Swift Graduation Speech 

Taylor Swift, the renowned singer-songwriter, delivered an inspiring graduation speech that emphasized embracing change and authenticity. 

Her words have motivated graduates worldwide, making her speech a source of valuable life lessons.

“The times I was told no or wasn’t included, wasn’t chosen, didn’t win, didn’t make the cut…looking back, it really feels like those moments were as important, if not more crucial, than the moments I was told ‘yes.’ …” 

Watch complete graduation speech here: 

Rory Gilmore Graduation Speech 

Rory Gilmore, a beloved fictional character from the TV series "Gilmore Girls," delivered a heartwarming graduation speech that celebrated the value of hard work, ambition, and the pursuit of dreams. 

Her speech remains an iconic moment in the series and a testament to the power of perseverance and ambition.

Watch her graduation speech here:

Ree Drummond - Oklahoma State University 

Ree Drummond, known as "The Pioneer Woman," shared her insights and wisdom in a graduation speech delivered in 2022. 

Her address offers a unique perspective on life, success, and the pursuit of dreams, making it a valuable resource for graduates seeking inspiration and guidance as they set out on their own paths.

Listen to the complete speech in this video:

Steve Jobs - 2005 

Steve Jobs' iconic 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University delivered invaluable life lessons and inspiration. 

His words continue to resonate with graduates and individuals worldwide, offering timeless guidance on pursuing one's passions and creating a meaningful life.

Check out his complete speech in this video: 

Graduation Speech Examples for Students 

Looking for inspiration for your own graduation speech? Here is a short graduation speech:

Read some more diverse graduation speech samples to spark your creativity:

Graduation Speech for Kindergarten - Example

Short Graduation Speech

Graduation Speech for Kids

Graduation Speech For Primary 6

8th Grade Graduation Speech

High School Graduation Speech

Explore a collection of inspiring graduation speeches, each offering a unique perspective on this momentous occasion.

Graduation Speech by Students - Example

Graduation Speech for Parents - Example

Graduation Speech by Teacher - Example

Graduation Speech by Principal- Example

Graduation Speech Thanking Teachers

Graduation Speech Ideas - 2023

Here are some interesting and fun graduation speech ideas.

  • Talk about a current school event.
  • Try something new like poetry or metaphors to make your speech interesting.
  • Tell a story about your class, for example, ‘what was the driving force of the class of 2021?’
  • Use quotes from famous and classic books.
  • Use lyrics from the class anthem.
  • Be inspirational and share an inspirational story.
  • Share a humorous experience.
  • Convey a memorable message.
  • If appropriate, add a song with meaning.
  • Appreciate a fellow classmate or a teacher.
  • Connect your speech with your 1st day at school.
  • Significant events that took place in the school.
  • A professor that made you fall in love with a major subject.
  • The long time you spent in the school library and how it impacted your interactions with other students.
  • Tell me about who inspired you the most in your life.

Graduation Speech Writing Tips 

Crafting a memorable graduation speech can be a rewarding yet challenging task. Here are some essential tips to help you write an impactful and engaging speech for your big day:

  • Know Your Audience: Understanding your audience is crucial to tailor your speech effectively.
  • Start Strong: An attention-grabbing beginning sets the tone for your speech.
  • Tell Personal Stories: Personal anecdotes and experiences create a meaningful connection.
  • Inspire and Motivate: Your speech should encourage confidence about the future.
  • Share Practical Advice: Offering practical life advice adds value to your speech.
  • Embrace Humor: Appropriately used humor can engage your audience.
  • Be Concise: Keeping your speech at an appropriate length is essential to maintain interest.
  • Practice and Rehearse: Preparation ensures confidence in your delivery.
  • End on a High Note: A memorable conclusion leaves a lasting impression.

As you take that first step forward, congratulations on your graduation, and we wish you the best of luck in whatever comes next. We hope this graduation speech guide has given you some pointers for what to say in your speech.

If you need further help, you can avail of our assistance and get your speech before the big day.

At MyPerfectWords.com , one of the best " write my essay services ", we help new graduates make their day memorable by delivering quality speeches.

Buy speech from us and get ready to shine.

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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Graduation Speech [20 Examples + Template]

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Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.

graduation speech

Being selected as a commencement speaker is a great recognition, but the responsibility can be intimidating. How do you know what kind of message will hit home for the graduates at this point in their lives? How do you make your message stand out from other words of wisdom that the graduating class has heard before?

Fortunately, there are many incredible graduation speeches from which you can pull information. We’ve gathered 15 of the best graduation speech examples here to make your research and brainstorming process easier. A little studying can give you ideas for the perfect graduation speech topic and help you write your speech efficiently.

In this article:

Graduation Speech Examples

Graduation speech template.

Take note of the flow and structure of the examples, and let them guide you in creating your own graduation speech outline. Remember to practice your speech and memorize the bulk of it so you’re able to deliver with confidence. With a strong theme and plenty of practice, you’re sure to gain the audience’s attention and leave them inspired.

Here are 15 free graduation speech examples to gain inspiration from. If you like a style or message of a sample speech, use it as a model to create your own original version.

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1. Funny Valedictorian Speech

This valedictorian entertains the audience of his high school graduation speech with subtle, kind-hearted jokes that reflect the graduating class and the school faculty. The graduation speaker has a sentimental theme to his speech, but his light humor ensures that the presentation is both meaningful and memorable.

“You see, this is not goodbye. This is see you in two to 10 years when I’m significantly smarter, wealthier, funnier, and more handsome than I am right now.”

2. College Graduation Speech Example: Conan O’Brien at Dartmouth College

You don’t have to be a famous comedian to deliver a funny graduation speech, but let Conan O’Brien’s speech at Dartmouth College serve as a good model to create your own. Intertwining life advice and great jokes, O’Brien inspires graduates to get past failure and pave their own paths.

“Today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment, you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

3. Preschool Graduation Speech

This preschool graduation speech is a great example for teachers who need to give a commencement address. A speech for a preschool or kindergarten graduation is different, in that the speaker is mostly communicating to the parents of the graduates. This preschool teacher delivers a meaningful speech that explains the joy in her job, while touching on the humorous things the students have said over the months.

“Tomorrow I give you back your child, the same child you entrusted in my care last fall, except now I give them back to you pounds heavier, inches taller… I give them back to you a little smarter, a little more mature, and a little more responsible than they were 10 months ago.”

4. David Foster Wallace Kenyon College Commencement Speech

In what is recognized as one of the best graduation speeches of all time, David Foster Wallace affirms to a class of liberal arts students that their education taught them how to think and how to be self-aware.

“The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.”

5. Middle School Graduation Speech

A class president delivers a heartwarming message in a storytelling format at his middle school graduation ceremony.

“Once upon a time, three long years ago, a journey began. We were obedient little munchkins, climbing up stairs meant for giants, carrying heavy backpacks filled with every sort of colored pencil existing on this earth.”

6. University of Wisconsin-Madison Commencement Speech 2017

Steven Levitan, creator of the award-winning show “Modern Family,” was the commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the graduating class of 2017. This is a good example to follow if you’re an alum of the college you’re presenting to.

“It’s hard to believe I graduated here 33 years ago. I still have the official university photo of me receiving my diploma wearing only shorts under my cap and gown and holding a big bottle of champagne, as if to say, ‘Hey world, lower your expectations.'”

7. Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard University Commencement Speech

Successful people are often chosen as commencement speakers for university graduation ceremonies. See how the CEO and founder of Facebook is able to portray humility in relating to the 2017 graduating class at Harvard University.

“I’m honored to be with you today because, let’s face it, you accomplished something I never could. If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard. Class of 2017, congratulations!”

8. Al Roker’s Commencement Speech at Champlain College

Upon receiving his doctorate degree of humane letters, the “Today Show” weather anchor delivered an inspirational speech to the graduating class. Roker speaks to the class’s generation and relates his graduation speech topic back to his own upbringing.

“Be in the moment. Stop living through your screen. Experience it now.”

9. Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford University

The Apple CEO’s commencement speech at 2005 to the graduating class at Stanford University is one of the classics. Jobs tells stories about his own experiences with dropping out of college, being fired from Apple, and being diagnosed with cancer.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of the other opinion drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

10. Elementary School Graduation Speech


This fifth-grade class speaker relates her teacher’s message to a lesson from her grandfather as her opening hook .

“To survive the fifth grade is not barely making it through. Instead, to survive means to perform with distinction.

11. Ellen Degeneres Commencement Speech at Tulane University

The famous talk show host and comedian Ellen Degeneres’s commencement speech at Tulane University is a great example of how a guest speaker can identify with her audience.

“It was so important for me to lose everything because I found what the most important thing is. The most important thing is to be true to yourself.”

12. University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address

Rear Admiral William H. McRaven aims to inspire his audience right from the beginning. The rear admiral encourages the graduating class to change the world, relating everyday life struggles to those of the people in the military.

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

13. Matthew McConaughey Commencement Speech

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey drew from his own personal story to deliver an inspirational commencement speech at the University of Houston. McConaughey gives the graduating class 13 life lessons, including to define success for yourself and find joy in your work.

“Prioritize who you are and who you want to be. Don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character.”

14. Commencement Address by Jim Carrey

In his commencement address at Maharishi University of Management, actor Jim Carrey tells an emotional personal story. Carrey uses emotion to encourage the graduating class to walk their own path and never settle in life.

“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.”

15. Stephen Colbert’s Commencement Speech at Wake Forest University

The famous comedian delivers a witty and funny graduation speech, offering students practical advice for the real world.

“And if there’s one thing you need even more, it’s your own set of standards. It may seem counterintuitive now, but once you leave here, you may miss being graded on all your work. Because when you’re out of school, there are no objective criteria for achievement anymore.”

16. Inspiring Graduation Speech

In this remarkable graduation speech, the class valedictorian makes a political statement by publicly revealing her status as an undocumented immigrant. The speech starts out with jokes, but turns into a moving performance that’s as powerful as it is fun to watch.

“To each and every single one of you, I say thank you. You taught me that it’s okay to be different and that there will always be people willing to overlook those differences and accept you for being yourself.”

17. Funny Graduation Speech

This class-elected graduation speaker has the perfect delivery of well-crafted jokes and one-liners throughout her speech. She keeps the whole class laughing and never misses a beat.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to pursuing an additional 4-year education – which I can’t afford.”

18. Moving Graduation Speech

This college graduation speech educates listeners about women’s education through the eyes of the speaker, who encountered resistance to seeking an education just because she was a woman. It’s nearly impossible to listen to this speech without feeling moved to take action.

“I couldn’t have imagined attending college, simply because we weren’t allowed to. My sisters weren’t allowed to; the girls before me weren’t allowed to.”

19. Funny Graduation Speech

This graduation speech by the senior class president is humorous and engaging. The class president reminisces with plenty of jokes in a speech full of fun memories and just the right amount of inspiration.

“I know we can all agree that this class is resilient. We survived an earthquake, two blackouts, and Ebola.”

20. Short Graduation Speech

Graduation ceremonies can be long, but the speeches don’t have to be. This short graduation speech uses an “ABCs of life” format to pack a lot of power into a short amount of time. The class president gets wild applause from the audience for his quick but clever speech.

“We must Q – quit quitting, and R – run the race with patience.”

  • Thank teachers and your parents or other family members for their support, encouragement, help, aid or personal assistance during your years of studying.
  • Praise accomplishments and achievements of the class.
  • Reflect upon the past years, what has changed and is interesting enough to share with all?
  • Mention funny and exciting events, you can opt for funny oneliners or even small innocent jokes, poems or quotations from famous people if you like.
  • Motivate your fellow students and teachers and professors to look to the bright future:
  • I continue with the 10 most wanted and popular graduation speech topics:
  • Give advice, but avoid boring cliches that are totally not surprising.
  • Entertain by telling humorous anecdotes and vivid stories. Offer an account of an interesting or humorous incident.
  • Express the feelings of the class. But do not go over the top.
  • Say farewell to all attendees. This acknowledgment at parting is the warming-up for the next and final step
  • Wish the graduates of your class all the best and thank them for listening.

Don’t forget to:

Thank the parents and family.  Have your class honor them with applause. Not only have they made sure you showed up to school, there’s a host of other responsibilities that parents have sacrificed to accomplish for you. Now is your moment to focus on them for a minute or so.

Thank the teachers and administrators.  Each teacher or professor works many long hours that you don’t see in the classroom, and many have poured their hearts and lives into teaching. Take this moment to make it worth it for them.

Use some of my vote of thanks example expressions to feed you imagination for topics for graduation speech a little bit.

Make the address personal. When you decide to make your graduation speech personal, you will experience much bigger success. It will also be more fun to write and deliver a talk that brings high school or college to a close with recognition of the small things in education life. The memories you will run across looking through yearbooks and talking about with friends will be priceless for you as well.

Calm the nerves.  It is very intimidating to address hundreds of people in the audience while delivering a graduation speech. Many of us have fear of public speaking. Before you proceed, do this test. And practice the tips.

Consider including:

STORIES Include stories about your school. These high school graduation speech topics can be about teachers and funny things that have happened over the year.

EVENTS Include motivational or moving events that may have happened – perhaps volunteer opportunities that have changed the students’ perspective. Make sure that any major events that have happened are recognized.

Sports and music events that have been important to the school need to be recognized, even if it happened in one of the prior years of your class and not the graduating year.

CLASS EXPERIENCE Bring the class experience alive for those attending the graduation. Grandparents and parents, as well as siblings, have heard the names from school.

Bring the people to the campus life that they have heard about.

DECEASED If a fellow student or teacher has died, mention that person. Make it not a funeral obituary eulogy but recognize them for the family who might be present.

PROJECTS Mention any projects that the school has undertaken; if you have been involved in a community garden or other volunteer organization give credit for the impact it has made.

Pet Peeve Speech Topics

Commemorative Speech

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How to Write a Graduation Speech (Graduation Speech Examples)


Have you been asked to deliver a commencement speech? Or have you worked your butt off to become valedictorian or salutatorian, and now you have to deliver a graduation speech? In this post, we will cover one of the more challenging types of presentation creation: How to Write a Graduation Speech . (By the way, I have also included a few popular graduation speech examples as a guide for you.)

This post is a continuation of our How to Create a Presentation series. We are going to break this post down into three parts, though. We will show you how to create a commencement speech in this post. Next week, I’ll show you how to write a valedictorian speech and how to deliver a salutatorian speech. Each of these graduation speeches has a slightly different purpose, but all of them need to be inspirational and funny.

How to Write a Commencement Speech

The commencement speech is often the keynote speech of the graduation ceremony. This presentation should be uplifting and entertaining, but this graduation speech should also teach a life lesson to the graduating students. If you do a search on YouTube of the best graduation speeches, many of these speakers will be famous comedians. When a comedian delivers a commencement speech, and the speech is posted on YouTube, it will always get a ton of views. The humor alone will make people want to watch the video. Three of the most popular of these speeches are by Conan O’Brien, Will Ferrell, and Ellen DeGeneres. The interesting thing about the speeches from these famous comedians is that, yes, they are funny, but the inspiration comes from what they learned from their failures.

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life life trying to push you in another direction.” Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University Commencement Speech

A Good Structure When You Write a Commencement Address

Thank the crowd.


Start with Something Funny

How Humor helps your speech

Be Inspirational

The inspirational part of your commencement speech will come from the theme of the graduation speech . (For Sample Graduation Speech Themes , see the section below.) The easiest way to develop a theme is to look for an inspirational famous quote about success. You can do this by just going to Google and type in “success quotes”. Once you come up with a great quote, you can either paraphrase the quote and make it your own or quote the original speaker.

Inspire others with your speech

Tell Stories from Your Own Experience Related to Your Quote (Theme).

This the most important part of how to write a graduation speech. The stories and examples are what the audience will remember. These stories add emotion and inspiration to your graduation speech. They also help you build rapport with the audience. Finally, these stories make your delivery much easier. You don’t have to memorize a lot of material. Instead, just play the video in your head of what happened and describe the incident to the graduates.

For a great example of this, watch the YouTube video on Stanford University’s channel where Steve Jobs gives the commencement speech. I love this speech, because Jobs skips the introduction and the funny stuff and starts his speech with the following. “I’m going to tell you three stories.” It’s simple, and the crowd loves him.

End with an Inspirational Call to Action.

How to end a graduation speech

So as you go on to the next stage in your life and you experience failure… because you will experience failure, use that as a stepping stone to your next success. Persevere. Don’t rest on that success. Use it as a stepping stone to your next success. Persevere, and you will experience a series of successes and failures that will allow you to accomplish something great!”

Use this outline to create a simple 20 to 30 minute speech. (The shorter the better… No one gets a diploma until you finish.)

Sample Graduation Speech Themes

Inspiration comes from failure

If you are having trouble coming up with a theme for your graduation speech, here are a few Sample Commencement Speech Themes. As you read through them, think about which them or quote has been most applicable in your career? Once you choose a graduation speech them, use the outline above to create your speech.

  • Hard Work Leads to Success
“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” — Coleman Cox
  • Create Your Own Path.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” — Herman Melville
  • Make Things Happen.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoreau
  • Don’t Settle for Average. Strive for Greatness.
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” –John D. Rockefeller
  • Don’t Wait for the Perfect Opportunity. Look for a Way to Create Your Own Opportunity.
“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” — Chris Grosser/blockquote> The Road Ahead is Hard, But It Leads to Success. “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” — Jim Rohn
  • Focus on Your Dream.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee
  • Learn from Every Mistake to Move Toward Success.
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” — Conrad Hilton
  • When Your Why is Big Enough, Your How Will Appear.
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” — Jim Rohn
  • Happiness is the Key to Success.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” — Albert Schweitzer

Use the Speech Creator as a Guide to How to Create a Graduation Speech

Once you have chosen a them, and you have a few stories to inspire your audience, use our Online Speech Writer to help you organize your thoughts. (It’s free.)

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  • Reduce nervousness and present naturally.
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31 Graduation Speeches: Speeches You Give in Pointy Hats

A picture of a graduate and his grandfather

Graduation is a big day for graduates, their families, and teachers. If you are called to give a graduation speech, you want to make it special.  I want to share with you what makes a good graduation speech and give you tips on how to write one that will make an impact.

As we begin, you need to wrap your mind around two main things:

  • Most people do not remember the graduation speeches they hear, but they do remember the feeling they got in the moment–inspired, bored, challenged.
  • The more you tap into shared memories, the more meaningful the speech will be for those listening.

There are two main types of graduation speakers, the student speaker, and the headline speaker. At one college at our university, there is a speech contest to be the graduation speaker and at another college, it is someone who has been nominated by a faculty member. How you get there varies from place to place At the local high school, the valedictorian is often the speaker. I recently went to high school graduation and they had seven valedictorians so they had seven speakers–yes, it was as long as you can imagine.

When thinking about giving a graduation speech, you have to ask, “What does the audience need from me?” They need you to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and focus on the future. This chapter will walk you through the essentials of giving a graduation speech and then give you several example speeches as samples of key elements.

Gather the Details

  • How long will you speak?
  • Who will be in attendance?
  • Who will introduce you?
  • Are you the only speaker?
  • Will there be a microphone?
  • Can you use speech notes?
  • Brainstorm with Friends

This is the fun part. Sit down with friends and make a list of all the things that come to mind about the college experience. When brainstorming, write down everything you think of and don’t try to judge whether it should be included, just go with it.  There is an entire chapter on how to brainstorm here. 

  • Food, dining halls, local restaurants
  • Hangouts on campus
  • Social events
  • Notable classes
  • Significant memories
  • Current events
  • Shared college experiences (on our campus it might be buying scantrons, hearing the bells of Old Main, and using Blackboard.

Organizational Format

Most all student graduation speeches include the past, present, and future format.

  • Present: Opening statement and the thank you.
  • Past: The shared memory.
  • Future: The challenge and a closing statement.

Manuscript Format

Most student graduation speeches are in manuscript format. That helps you from getting overwhelmed at the moment and that also gives the school a chance to censor– I mean to approve of–your content. There is an entire chapter on writing a manuscript that you can refer to here. 

Pick a Theme

Many graduation speeches use a theme. Here are some of the most common graduation themes.

It can be helpful to pick a theme and connect a metaphor to your theme. There is an entire chapter on how to do that here. 

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to push you in another direction.” Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University Commencement Speech

Start Your Speech with an Introduction

Most introductions acknowledge the occasion, offer thanks, and lead into the main idea. Shutterfly suggests these as openings.

  • “Thank you [person who introduced you]. And thank you to the students, teachers, parents, and staff who made these four years everything that they were.”
  • “It’s my honor today to deliver the commencement address for this incredible student body.”
  • “It is my pleasure to welcome students, families, and faculty to graduation day at [school’s name]. Every one of you has made an impact on the graduates who sit here today.”
  • “I stand here before you, looking back on four years of legacy we’ve all made together.”

Use the Principles of Good Ceremonial Speaking

I have written a chapter on each component of ceremonial speaking and you can reference those you need:

  • Tell a story
  • Use identification, narration, and magnification
  • Use colorful language
  • Use metaphor, simile,  and theme
  • Put your speech in manuscript format

Look for Stories that Celebrate Common Experiences

Notice how Jaclyn Marston reflects on specific classes and memories. (Watch starting at .54 seconds).

Watch how Lin Manuel Miranda references the familiar and the obscure in his address to the University of Pennsylvania (start watching at 1:12).

Use a Theme

Notice how she uses the theme–“What do you want to be” when you grow up and alters it to  “What do you want to do?” She opens with this and wraps back around to this same idea at the end.

Be Vulnerable

Notice how this speaker admits his shortcomings. We feel like he is honest and vulnerable so we hang on his everyword.

Headline Speaker Sample Speeches

Headline speakers are usually someone famous or notable. Speeches by those individuals almost always include stories and challenges. I have included several here. Pick two of them to analyze.

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. Steve Jobs

These highlights of Lou Holtz’s graduation speech is full of great challenges and life lessons.

Tim Minchin

“One: Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up.

Two: Don’t seek happiness. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect.

Three:  Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.

Four: Exercise. Take care of your body: you’re going to need it.

Five: Be hard on your opinions. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges.

Six: Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education.

Seven: Define yourself by what you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro stuff not just anti stuff.

Eight: Respect people with less power than you.

Nine: Finally, don’t rush. You don’t need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.”

As you can see, graduation speeches can be serious or lighthearted; they can be personal, motivational, and informative. The key thing is that the speech should be authentic. It should be as unique as the speaker.

Key Takeaways

Remember This!

  • Graduation speeches should reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and inspire towards the future.
  • Consider the needs of the audience and find commonalities.
  • Tell a story.
  • Use a manuscript.

Bonus Features

Jaclyn Marson describes the process of how she wrote her Graduation Speech.

Dunham, A. (2019). Valedictorian comes out as autistic during speech. [Video] YouTube.  https://youtu.be/GtPGrLoU5Uk Standard YouTube License

Holtz, L. (2017). Lou Holtz’s inspirational speech. Commencement speech.[Video] YouTube.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3LOo_Ccyws Standard YouTube License

Jobs, S. (2008). Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. [Video] YouTube.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc Standard YouTube License.

Jostens, (n.d.).  Celebrate high school memories. Inspire your grad community. https://www.jostens.com/resources/students-and-parents/graduation-guides/how-to-write-a-grad-speech

Marson, J. (2020). How to write an amazing graduation speech–Jaclyn Marson podcast Ep 1. [Video] YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5CUSzp9SrM Standard YouTube License.

Marston, J. (2016). Beautiful and moving graduation speech 2016. [Video] YouTube.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F3K3Z_5CEE Standard YouTube License.

Minchin, T. (2013). 9 life lessons-Time Minchin UWA Address. [Video] YouTube.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEezZD71sc Standard YouTube License.

Rosen, L. (2019). Leah Rosen: “The power of this place,” Duke University 2019 commencement student speaker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4N Standard YouTube License.

Shutterfly. (n.d) How to start a graduation speech. https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/graduation-speech/

Stewart, M.  (2020). Student speaker. Commencement 2020. University of Utah. [Video] YouTube.   h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZFJnZvuQIo Standard YouTube License.

University of Pennsylvania. (2016). Penn’s 2016 commencement ceremony- Commencement speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda. [Video] YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewHcsFlolz4&t=0s Standard YouTube License.

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  • Graduation Photo © Lynn Meade is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license

Advanced Public Speaking Copyright © 2021 by Lynn Meade is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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6 Secrets to Writing a Memorable Graduation Speech, Even If You've Never Done It Before

If you're facing writer's block, get inspired by these essential graduation speech ideas.

Nora Horvath is an editor and writer with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle. Highlights: * Editorial intern at Prevention * Assistant editor at Real Simple * Associate features editor at Food Network Magazine and The Pioneer Woman Magazine * Senior editor at Weber Shandwick

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

Maggie Seaver is the digital health and wellness editor at Real Simple, with seven years of experience writing lifestyle and wellness content. She spends her days writing and editing stories about sleep, mental health, fitness, preventive health, nutrition, personal development, relationships, healthy habits, and beyond. She loves demystifying complicated health topics, debunking wellness fads, and sharing practical, science-backed solutions for healthy living.

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

It's not easy to give advice to your peers, and it's even harder to do it in front of a room full of their friends and relatives at college graduation (or high school, middle school, or elementary school, for that matter). Whether you were chosen to speak at the commencement podium because of your top-of-class grades or were elected class speaker because of your charisma, there are probably countless memories, tidbits of wisdom, and funny one-liners you want to include. And after what seems like 100 other speakers, you want to grab people's attention—not put them to sleep.

Since you're also graduating, you don't need to use this time to answer all of life's existential questions, although you might feel like trying. After all, you're still figuring it out yourself. Instead, talk about what you know, reflect on the big memories you share with your fellow classmates, and use our tips below to write the most memorable speech of the day.

Gather Inspiration

Before you start writing, find inspiration from some of the most memorable high school and college graduation speeches in history. NPR put together a database of over 350 speeches , categorized by message, school, and speaker's name, so it's the perfect resource for graduation speech ideas about where to start. (If you're looking for something unconventional, try watching David McCullough Jr.'s speech from Wellesley High School in 2012.) And don't forget about celebrities you love: read through the most encouraging quotes from famous graduation speeches to spark inspiration for your own address.

Give It Structure

All engaging stories have a beginning, middle, and end—think of your graduation speech the same way. Be thoughtful about how you open your speech to grab people's attention, how you plan to keep their attention throughout, and finally, how you'll tie it all together with a neat, closing message. Giving a speech structure won't make it boring or formulaic—it'll make it easier for your audience to follow (and for you to deliver it).

Stick With a Theme

If you're trying to string together a bunch of quotes that have nothing to do with one another, you're going to confuse your audience more than inspire them. Find one core message or a theme that really resonates, and build the rest of your graduation speech around it.

Keep It Short

There's nothing worse then sitting in a hot auditorium or tent outside while listening to someone ramble on endlessly. At most, people will remember one funny joke, a great anecdote, or the general message, so cut out extra fluff and only include the parts you think are the most important.

Practice Out Loud (and Often)

As Richard T. Jones showed us in his infamous speech at University of Maryland University College in 2011, improvisation is not the way to go when you're supposed to be giving people advice on one of the most important days of their lives. Make sure you actually write a speech—and practice it out loud—so you don't end up repeating the same idea over and over again.

Infuse Your Personality

In 2016, Harvard University graduate Donovan Livingston did his commencement speech in spoken-word poetry , an interest of his. Though his message touched on common grad themes—the power of education in the world, following your passions with your degree, and reaching for the stars—his delivery also changed the way people heard these ideas. Not all speeches need to be straight-forward and full of classic Robert Frost quotes. If you highlight your strengths and talk about things that make you excited—in other words, if you be yourself—people will listen.

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6 tips to write a great graduation speech (with examples) 

6 tips to write a great graduation speech (with examples) 

Updated November 24, 2022

Being chosen to write a speech for a graduation ceremony is exciting, but also utterly terrifying, for many people. It’s not just your classmates in the audience, it’s parents and faculty too. And with some incredible student graduation speech examples out there (not to mention the perfection that was Steve Jobs’ speech ), there’s a lot to live up to. With that in mind, here are some tips and graduation speech examples to help you create the perfect commencement speech.

  • Pick a theme
  • Write an outline
  • Pen a catchy introduction
  • Write a thank-you paragraph
  • Look back and look ahead
  • End your graduation speech

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1. pick a theme.

The overall goal of graduation speeches is to inspire and move your audience. But there are lots of ways to do this, and picking the right theme is a big part of it. Popular themes are the importance of friendship; perseverance and overcoming adversity; having big dreams and imagination; making a difference. Once you have your theme, it will be easier to choose anecdotes, quotations , and examples to put into your speech.

2. Write an outline

The next step for any commencement speech is to write an outline. Breaking it up into manageable parts not only makes it feel less overwhelming, but it helps to give your speech structure, making it easier for the audience to follow. A good speech will have the following: 

  • A catchy introduction
  • A look back
  • A look ahead
  • A pithy ending

3. Pen a catchy introduction

Begin by thanking everyone for attending and for choosing you to be their speaker. Then, grab your audience’s attention from the very start with a hook. Lots of people choose to begin with a quotation that captures the theme of the whole speech. 

Example: I want to begin with a quotation from Nora Ephron: “Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” 

Other ways to hook your audience are by telling a short, personal story that your classmates can relate to, or by giving a statistic or question that fits with your theme. And never shy away from humor. A speech by James Glaser at Tufts University contained only questions , one being: “Would you believe that my 5’1” sister met her 5’4” husband in a short story class?” This would be a very funny way to begin a speech about meeting special people. 

4. Write a thank-you paragraph

Now your audience is paying attention, it’s time for gratitude. Thank your teachers and other staff at the school who have made a difference and tell an anecdote about someone to personalize this. 

Example: “I know I speak on behalf of all of my classmates when I thank the catering staff, who have made sure we fuel our brains with more than just fries and soda during exam times.”

Now’s the time to thank the families in the audience too. You can do a personal shout-out to your mom and dad, but be inclusive and remember that your classmates will have received support from a range of people. 

5. Look back and look ahead

The bulk of your speech will be spent talking about your time at the school and about how you see the future unfolding. Now is the time to focus on the theme that you chose, and to include stories about your shared experiences. 

If you chose to focus on overcoming adversity , recall a challenge you faced that you know a lot of other people did too. Share how a lesson you learned at school will help you after you leave, and remind everyone that you have learned much more than what was on the syllabus. 

Example: As Rita Moreno said, “The day you graduate, you do not arrive. This is not the end. This is the beginning for you. To graduate is to change gradually.” I know we’ve all changed so much already and we will continue to do so.

6. End your graduation speech

End with some advice and a call to action. Lots of people end with a quotation, and this can be from someone famous or from you. 


  • George Saunders said, “Do all the other things, the ambitious things—travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes…but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”
  • C.S. Lewis told us that “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” So let’s go find them.

Writing a great graduation speech

Beginning with a theme and an outline helps focus your speech, which should make it easier for you to write with clarity and to find the right stories and quotations to use. Telling personal stories that everyone can relate to, sprinkled with humor, is a wonderful way to keep people engaged throughout your speech. And, ending with a bang in the form of an amazing quotation will help inspire your audience and leave them feeling upbeat. 

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio .

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7 of the Best Life Lessons From Graduation Speeches

Daniel Potter

It’s graduation season! As so many bright and hard-working grads shift their tassels from right to left in graduation ceremonies live and virtual, we’re celebrating—and reflecting on life lessons communicated in commencement addresses. 

Some universities attract big names to offer words of wisdom at graduation ceremonies, including literal rock stars, journalistic luminaries, and even former presidents. Indeed, some of their most memorable and powerful remarks have become timeless. We share a few of our favorite pearls from graduation speeches below.

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>>Read More: How to Congratulate Someone in Every Stage of Life

1 Oprah Winfrey (Stanford, 2008)

“In order to be truly happy, you must live along with and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back.”

Oprah emphasized to Stanford grads the importance of a career serving something much bigger than oneself. The preeminent mononym’s remarks were especially weighty because Stanford was founded by two parents doing exactly that: creating the school as a memorial to their late son, who died of typhoid at fifteen.

2 Amy Poehler, Harvard, 2011

“You can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. . . . No one is here today because they did it on their own. OK, maybe Josh, but he’s just a straight-up weirdo.”

Peppering her remarks with a slew of jokes, the comedian and Parks and Recreation star underscored the value of collaborating and building alongside others. It’s a key tenet of improv comedy, as Poehler noted, which also teaches the value of taking risks, saying “yes,” and living in the moment—all lessons that apply not just to improvising on stage but also to life in general. 

3 Robert Krulwich (Berkeley, 2011)

“Think about NOT waiting your turn. . . .Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. . . . Think about turning to people you already know . . . and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.”

Addressing journalism grads during a tumultuous period for jobseekers, the Radiolab co-founder urged aspiring storytellers not to wait to somehow earn permission to follow their calling, but instead simply start doing it. They should trust that by placing a big bet on themselves meaningful dividends would ensue.

4 John F. Kennedy (American University, 1963)

“Our problems are man-made—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

Speaking about the pursuit of peace less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy pushed back against the fatalistic notion that humankind has the power to doom itself but not to save itself. It was a trenchant point amid the Cold War backdrop and holds up impressively more than half a century later.

5 Michelle Obama (2020)

“In an uncertain world, time-tested values like honesty and integrity, empathy and compassion—that’s the only real currency in life. Treating people right will never, ever fail you.”

Speaking to a broad virtual audience during a time of upheaval and confusion, the former First Lady acknowledged that people can and do sometimes get ahead by being inauthentic and simply refusing to own their shortcomings. But she argued that taking that route foregoes meaningful connections and work, as well as “the chance to leave this world a little better than you found it.”

6 Zadie Smith (The New School, 2014)

“It feels good to give your unique and prestigious selves a slip every now and then and confess your membership in this unwieldy collective called the human race.”

The award-winning English novelist reflected on the tension between individual pursuits and working collectively—and on not being afraid to take part in things bigger than oneself. 

Indeed, despite the solitary nature of writing, Smith said the most valuable moments of her life have often been those that got her out of her head and actively doing something with the crowd—even something as simple as passing out slices of cake at her mother’s birthday party. 

7 John Green (Kenyon College, 2016)

  “All these so-called horrors of adulthood emerge from living in a world where you are inextricably connected to other people to whom you must learn to listen.”

The novelist and YouTuber earnestly warned newly minted grads that the grind of adulthood can at times be nightmarishly tedious. But he argues many conversations that at first seem painfully banal are, if we’re alive to it, really about humans trying to find ways to muddle through life together. In other words, they’re extremely worthwhile.

Green ended his deftly brief address by quoting a beloved professor who told him: “You’re a good kid, but you need to learn when to stop talking.” 

It’s sage advice—and with it in mind, we’ll hush now.

PS: If that’s your mortarboard up in the air, congratulations and good luck!

how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

This writer analyzed 100 graduation speeches — here are the 4 tips they all share

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how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

Steve Jobs has been credited over the years with popularizing any number of other people’s inventions, from the personal computer to the tablet to the mobile phone. But none of these gifts may be as enduring as one of his rarely credited contributions to contemporary life — popularizing the viral commencement address.

On June 12, 2005, Jobs stood before the graduating class of Stanford University and reminded them that he had never graduated from college. “Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.” He then told three stories about his life. “That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

That speech , coinciding as it did with the rise of internet virality (the first TED Talk would be posted on TED.com exactly 12 months later; the iPhone was introduced exactly 12 months after that), launched a global obsession with pithy, inspirational talks. Jobs’s speech has since been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube.

Graduation speeches, long viewed as the burdensome interruption before diplomas were granted and mortar boards were tossed, have since become big business. Kurt Vonnegut, Ann Patchett, Carl Hiaasen, J.K. Rowling, Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace and many others have all had their commencement speeches published as books.

I’ve been fortunate to give a handful of commencement addresses over the years, and I confess to a fascination with the genre. The internet has been a boon this hobby. There are thousands of commencement speeches on the web. Can we learn anything from their messages?

I’ve spent the last few years gathering and coding hundreds of life stories, looking for patterns and takeaways that could help all of us live with more meaning, purpose and joy. I decided to put some of my coding tools to work, analyzing 100 of the most popular recent commencement speeches.

Here are the four tips they all contain:

1. Dream big

“I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges.” — Larry Page at University of Michigan , 2009

“We don’t beat the reaper by living longer. We beat the reaper by living well and living fully. For the reaper is always going to come for all of us. The question is: What do we do between the time we are born, and the time he shows up? Because when he shows up, it’s too late to do all the things that you’re always gonna, kinda get around to.” — Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University , 2009

“Graduates, we need you. We need you to run companies and make decisions about who has access to capital. We need you to serve at the highest levels of government and determine our country’s standing in the world. We need you to work in our hospitals and in our courtrooms and in our schools. We need you to shape the future of technology. We need you because your perspective — the sum total of your intellect and your lived experience — will make our country stronger.” — Kamala Harris at Tennessee State University , 2022

2. Work hard

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs at Stanford University , 2005

“I just directed my first film. I was completely unprepared, but my own ignorance to my own limitations looked like confidence and got me into the director’s chair. Once there, I had to figure it all out, and my belief that I could handle these things, contrary to all evidence of my ability to do so was half the battle. The other half was very hard work. The experience was the deepest and most meaningful one of my career.” — Natalie Portman at Harvard University , 2015

“When you’re doing the work you’re meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid … But make it your life’s work to remake the world because there is nothing more beautiful or more worthwhile than working to leave something better for humanity.” — Oprah Winfrey at Stanford University , 2008

3. Make mistakes

”Fail big. That’s right. Fail big … It’s a new world out there, and it’s a mean world out there, and you only live once. So do what you feel passionate about. Take chances, professionally. Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s an old IQ test with nine dots, and you had to draw five lines with a pencil within these nine dots without lifting the pencil, and the only way to do it was to go outside the box. So don’t be afraid to go outside the box.” — Denzel Washington at University of Pennsylvania , 2011

“The world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.” — Aaron Sorkin at Syracuse University , 2013

“My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best thing in my life. Being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience of getting back up dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it. That’s a gift. The times I was told no or wasn’t included wasn’t chosen, didn’t win, didn’t make the cut, looking back it really feels like those moments we’re as important if not more crucial than the moments I was told yes.” — Taylor Swift at NYU , 2022

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” — Conan O’Brien at Dartmouth College , 2011

“Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” — Will Ferrell at the University of Southern California , 2017

“So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.” — George Saunders at Syracuse University , 2013

So what can we learn from these themes?

Every era in American life has its own standards of what it means to be a success. Shortly after America’s founding, success was all about character. Led by Benjamin Franklin, Americans embraced virtue, industry, and frugality. In the twentieth century, success was all about personality. Led by Dale Carnegie, Americans embraced salesmanship, reinvention and charisma. Today, led by Steve Jobs, Americans are embracing meaning, authenticity and bliss. Or, as Kermit the Frog put it in a 1996 commencement speech at Southampton College , “May success and a smile always be yours … even when you’re knee-deep in the sticky muck of life.”

Dream, work, fail and smile are as good a foursome of American identity today as I know. And if those ideas don’t inspire you, you can always embrace the far more practical advice erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut in a commencement speech that he never gave at MIT, but was instead delivered by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich in an imaginary speech to graduates she published in an old-fashioned newspaper, “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97: Wear sunscreen.”

This post was adapted from one published on his newsletter The Nonlinear Life; go here to subscribe.

Watch his TEDxIEMadrid Talk now:

About the author

Bruce Feiler is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers, including The Secrets of Happy Families and Council of Dads, both of which became the subject of TED Talks. His latest book, Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, from which this post and TEDx Talk are adapted, describes his journey across America, collecting hundreds of life stories, exploring how we can navigate life’s growing number of transitions with more meaning, purpose and joy. To learn more, visit brucefeiler.com, follow him on Twitter (@brucefeiler), or sign up for his newsletter The Nonlinear Life. 

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Guest Speaker Speech For Senior High School Graduation – Back to My Alma Mater

Senior High School Guest Speaker

Thank you for visiting my blog. I’ve received several emails thanking me of how this post has helped them in preparing their speech. Like them, I hope you’ll also find my speech useful. I’m not asking anything in return but I would really appreciate it if you can subscribe to our Youtube Channel Iway Diaries.

Iway Diaries Youtube Channel

Last April 5, 2018, I delivered my first ever inspirational speech for the first batch of Senior High School graduates of my Alma Mater – Parang National High School. I graduated from this school 15 years ago and honestly, this year’s event and visit made me somewhat emotional. When they sang the school’s songs I sang years ago, I couldn’t help myself but be teary-eyed for a moment. I suddenly remembered my graduation day, all those mixed emotions of excitement and fear. To the graduates, congratulations! I’m not a very good writer nor an experienced speaker, but I hope I am able to inspire you with my speech below.

Today, I am not only congratulating you, the graduates who successfully completed the additional years of learning in high school, but I am also congratulating your proud parents and relatives who have been waiting for this very special academic achievement. It’s normal to feel anxious and maybe scared after today’s celebration but take it easy. You are all going to be fine! How do I know that? The K to 12 curriculum has a purpose and that’s to make you all more ready and more equipped to join the workforce or enter college. Now let me ask you graduates, are you really ready to go out there and face life’s challenges? 

Fifteen years ago, I was just like you. I was happy, excited but I also felt fear, fear of the unknown future, fear of new routine, fear of being in a new school, new place, and with new friends. But aside from fear, there was also stress. My father was against the idea of me going to MSU-IIT. The school offered me BS Statistics, a course that’s new to me and my parents so obviously my father didn’t like it. I remember he wanted me to go to UP in Iloilo, take up BS Accountancy which was the course that I originally wanted, or go to NDU Cotabato City instead as it was nearer. Choosing a school for college is sometimes stressful. Money is the number 1 consideration, no. 2 is parent’s approval. But when my mother asked me if I was sure of MSU-IIT, there was uncertainty inside me, but I saw that question as a window of opportunity, so I confidently said YES I am sure! Who wouldn’t want to go to a public school anyway? It’s cheaper and living away from my strict father was a plus!

So there I was a university student of my chosen school, thanks to my mother, taking up BS Statistics but planning to shift to BS Accountancy for the next semester or school year. That was my original plan. But you see, life is full of twists and turns . This was my realization no.1 during my first few years in college. What you don’t like right now might be interesting for you next year. From wanting to be CPA, I started loving my course and got obsessed with the idea of graduating with honors and be a company statistician or a statistics professor someday.

Fast forward, after many sleepless nights, I did graduate as Cumlaude, a battlefield I have won, yet I had one regret which led me to realization no. 2 – E njoy, make friends and learn new good things from them . I focused too much on my studies before that well, you can picture me as the KJ and the most serious one in the group. I’m not saying it’s bad but seriously it’s not good either. Remember that college is not just about passing subjects after subjects. Treat it as the place where you can discover new skills or talents, and a place where you can improve your people skills. Believe me, you’ll need good people skills when you want to succeed at work someday.

Months after graduation in college, I didn’t get the job that I wanted that time. Why? Because again, life is full of twists and turns. It turned out that pursuing a career is expensive. I traveled to places just for an interview, yet I failed. I applied to several schools, I even tried applying in a bank one time because I was told statisticians have a place in banks, but then again, I wasn’t chosen. And then came realization no. 3, Job hunting is not about grades or the number of awards received. Yes, it’s a plus, but not an assurance . My parents were already out of budget, I had 2 siblings in college that time so if you do the math, obviously the combined salaries of a teacher and a fireman won’t make ends meet. So I went home, unemployed. And there I was, an elementary and high school valedictorian, a Cum Laude graduate, waiting for days to pass by, most of the time just inside my room. But here’s my realization no. 4, and it’s very common in movies because it really happens in real life, that when you’re at your lowest, when you already lack resources, no money, don’t lose hope because there are windows of opportunities reserved for each of you . All you have to do is be open-minded and be brave to make a decision fast.

For my path to landing a job, my window of opportunity was a text from a childhood friend in Cebu informing me about a vacancy of the place where she stayed. I knew we had no more money for another travel, my father was already complaining but I convinced him to give me 1 shot. Thankfully, he agreed but my parents only gave me money to pay for a month of rent. So when I arrived in Cebu, I did not waste any time. I widened my options, I applied to all positions I’m willing to take, all positions containing the terms “Analyst”, “Specialist” and so on. And just 2 days after I arrived in Cebu, I got a job. A job that I had no idea really yet I accepted it because it was the first opened door for me and I was afraid I won’t get another one in a month. I was hired as a Search Engine Specialist, that time I had no knowledge that Google, Bing and Yahoo are called Search Engines. My manager told me he chose me because he wanted someone who’s good in numbers and who can help him with his research. So I excitedly signed my first ever contract with a plan of staying for few months only because, again, I wanted to be a Statistician.

But life is not a one-path journey , this was my realization no. 5. I realized, well I am already good in numbers and analysis, why not use it in other fields instead? So I worked hard, studying terms in the IT industry, Google and Youtube became my bestfriends for me to learn new skills. I stayed in the same company for 8 years, I enjoyed several promotions, managing different teams, I also had time for love life that’s why I married my officemate, we had our first child, everything started to fall into place. But nothing in life is permanent, most especially jobs and this was my realization no.6. Our company decided to close their PH office and I was pregnant with my 2nd child. And there I was, a soon to be a mother of two, unemployed but not hopeless. Why? Because I knew, there will be another window of opportunity for me, at the right time.

Now, I am a full-time work-at-home mom, working for a digital marketing agency, helping online businesses in achieving their goals. My office is in our house so yeah instead of corporate clothes, I’m working in my pajamas. My boss might not be around but I can hear my other bosses shouting every now and then, calling for mommy. Was this my dream job when I was your age? Of course not. But when I became a mother, all I wanted was to earn more money, discover new opportunities while being close to my children. Digital marketing has opened me doors to many opportunities so yes, what I have right now is my dream job which led me to realization no. 7 – there’s no such thing as luck, only answered prayers with some twists from the most powerful above all.

How I chose my path, I am not alone. I know some registered nurses who chose to join the PNP, a nurse graduate who’s now a writer, a law school graduate who chose to open and focus on his business. You see graduates, success is not an end goal. It’s a never-ending process towards happiness and fulfillment and it’s changing because goals change as you grow older. Right now, all of you are successful senior high school graduates, most of you will go to college so aim for that diploma as your next goal. Focus on your studies, get a part-time job if financial resources are not enough. It’s a must to have fun with friends but it’s never OK to attend class with a hangover. It’s OK to have a love life, but for girls, remember your father’s face whenever you’re alone with your boyfriend, for boys, remember your mother’s face. It’s OK to fail once, twice but please make sure you won’t stay 7 years in college!!! Always think about your parents! Try your best not to fail them!

For those of you who will be joining the workforce early, just trust in yourself and widen your options. Don’t ever think you deserve little just because you don’t have a college degree. I know high school graduates who are now managing teams in companies, I know many who are very good in what they do and are now earning huge, some started early to put up their own small businesses, your options are actually endless. So I will not ask you again whether you’re indeed ready to go out there because I know you all are! So just as long as you open your eyes to see windows of opportunities, be quick and firm with your decisions, always think about your parents and family who supported you, be friendly out there, believe in yourself and most importantly, pray to your Allah or God, you’ll all be alright. Thank you and congratulations!

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how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

How to Write a Graduation Speech

Celebrate high school memories. inspire your grad community..

It’s an incredible honor to be chosen to speak to your classmates at your graduation ceremony. Still, we know writing a graduation speech can be nerve-wracking. That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you create a speech that will not only touch, entertain and inspire your entire graduation community but also celebrate high school memories and traditions.

STEP 1: Choose your theme

Whether you decide to relive high school memories, offer advice to your classmates, reflect on the future, or give thanks to those who have helped you, it can be tough to decide on the right theme for your speech. That’s why we’ve reviewed hundreds of the best student speeches to help you get started.

You can stick to one theme or combine several. You can also add quotations from famous people and writers to support your message. Whichever option you choose when you are writing a graduation speech, be sure to coordinate with your fellow presenters to guarantee that each of you is offering a unique perspective.

Here are some of the most powerful themes from successful graduation speeches:

  • Paths through life
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Classmates as individuals
  • Friends and friendship
  • Looking back to the early years
  • Memories of high school
  • Making a Difference
  • Congratulations 

Step 2: Edit

After you have written a draft, ask a teacher, friend or family member to give you feedback about what to keep and what to cut. Remember to be sensitive that there are many different paths after graduation. Some graduates may attend college. Others may not. Also be aware of how different cultures and heritages within your student body view graduation.

This step is also your chance to take out any inappropriate content, including:

  • Insults to individuals or groups
  • Racial or ethnic jokes
  • Sexual innuendos
  • False information
  • Anything that you are worried about including. If it makes you hesitate, delete it.

Step 3: Choose Your Visuals

Visuals can provide excellent support to your speech and help create even more of an emotional connection. If you use images to support your message remember to:


Finish Writing First.

And then look for images to support your message. Never write your speech around an image just because you really like it and want to use it.

Student in cap and gown

Add Photos.

Include as many of your classmates as possible, not just you and your close friends. Never use images that are embarrassing to audience members.

Group of graduates

Create A Slideshow.

Will you operate the slideshow from the podium or will someone else? If you are working with another person, practice several times together.

Step 4: Rehearse

Rehearse frequently and out loud so that you internalize your message. Understand why you are speaking the words you have chosen and repeat them in rehearsal until you feel the essence of your message in your gut.

If you go blank during your speech, don’t panic. Instead, focus your eyes on one person in the audience, which will make it look as though you are being forceful and dramatic. Pause for about four seconds before focusing on someone else. Repeat until you have collected your thoughts.

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Sample Funny graduation speech for guest speaker

The sample graduation speech for keynote speaker below is a funny, entertaining speech meant mainly to be used for guest speakers at college or class graduations. It can easily be customized to be used at high school or other graduations as well. This speech is humorous but serious anda talks about personal commitment, working hard, doing your best and adapting to change. We hope you find this sample graduation speech for keynote or guest speakers helpful.

Sample graduation speech for keynote or guest speaker

Thank you for that kind introduction and thank you for inviting me to speak today. I'm very pleased to be here to join you in celebrating this wonderful occasion.

First of all, congratulations to all of you. You should be very, very proud of yourselves for accomplishing this goal. Well done. I know you must all be excited to get your hands on your diplomas and run out into the world. But as cartoonist Garry Trudeau said, “Commencement speeches were invented largely in the belief that outgoing college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.”

That's where I come in as the key note speaker. I'll try not to sedate you too badly.

To the families of those graduating and earning certifications, congratulations to you and you should know that your support through this process made an enormous impact. I'm sure you're very proud of your graduates as they close this portion of their lives and prepare for their next steps into a new career.

Graduation is one of those steps in life that defines a coming of age - the ending of one era of life, as a student or the one being shown the ropes, and moving on to a new stage in which you are a leader, a do-er and an achiever in the wider world. I'm sure many of you have firm plans and have a good idea of what's coming next, some of you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do next, a dream and a lot of hope to get you there, and some of you are just amazed that you got to this graduation point at all! Well the coming times will be exciting, they will be trying but they will be all dependent on you and your determination.

It's been ## years since I graduated from college and things have changed just a bit since then.

It was year you graduated : On TV, the popular shows were (fill in your own info) , the top movies were (Fill in your info), the radio was playing (Fill in your own info and a stamp cost ( Fill in your own info) cents. In the news, (Add a few well known news items or add tidbits that identify the era, such as the Cold War, disco, poodle skirts, hippies, the Vietnam war, the First Gulf War, etc.)

I had big plans for myself. I was a graduate of (Fill in your college name), and I was going to fill in your info here with the idea of being humorous - for instance: be single for life, never have kids, drive a corvette, be a millionaire in 5 years, travel the world in my yacht, get elected to Congress in a year or so, wear my hair long, live in a big house, play quarterback for the Broncos/or input local team) .

You see, I planned to take it easy, not work too hard and enjoy life.

And here I find myself at a graduation once again but number of years later, my life didn't turn out quite the way I planned. Input information here that mirrors what you said above. For instance, I've been married for ## years, I have 4 kids, 2 cats and a dog, I drive a beat up car and I'm far from a millionaire. Instead of traveling the world I spend my vacations at (name a local amusement park or mall) with my kids and I don't play football - I watch it on TV . And though life didn't turn out the way I thought it would, I don't regret a bit of it - I haven't failed - I've adapted found what makes me happy and fulfills me and so will you.

Life doesn't usually follow the plans you lay out for yourself. You will all experience the highs and lows of life, the difficult and the easy and unfortunately, there may sometimes be times of too many difficulties and just not enough smooth sailing. Your true success will be defined by how you handle both of these times.

As you graduate and take on new challenges, chances are you won't be making a million bucks at your first job. In fact you might not get the first or second or third job you interview for. You may never become a CEO of a fortune 500 company in your life, but that's OK. The important thing is you have already taken the initial steps needed to build a more promising future. Every class you've taken, every lab, every essay written and every certification you've earned, they have all been preparing you to adapt to change and challenges. Especially 8 am and Saturday classes - I know those were tough! But as you know, it's a tough world out there- nothing will be handed to you - you have to earn it - and it will mean more to you because you will earn it.

To give you an example of how perseverance can pay off, let's me talk about (Here talk about a personal hero or a story of someone who inspired you with their work ethic .

You have taken a key step towards your successful future and also the betterment of your family and your community. You've worked hard, spending months learning new skill sets. Our complex and technical world today requires education and skills that were not needed in the past. Ultimately - your well educated generation will benefit us all in the future.

Let me leave you with this thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

You're now armed with one of the most important tools needed to forge your path ahead. It's not the diploma itself that counts - it's about what you've learned along the way and what you do with the education you've gotten in your journey to graduation today. Your future is in your hands - no one else's. Seize this opportunity.

Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

More information : We hope this page was helpful and provided you with some information about making a funny and entertaining graduation speech that can be easily customized . Check out our main page for more articles here Can U Write .

All materials on this page are under the copyright of canuwrite.com These speech and letter sample materials may be re-used for free but may not be reprinted or redistributed without attribution to canuwrite.com


Graduation Speech Examples

Click here to view our wide range of Graduation Speeches   –  downloadable instantly

graduation speech examples

Our graduation speech examples are a clear indication that we have words for every occasion. Of course these are only individual samples of what you might say whereas when you order from us your will receive at least three different speeches in every set we send. This means that you can use one speech individually or selected passages from the set. Whether you are graduating yourself or addressing graduates our speeches say all that needs to be said on the day. Most sets also have the added bonus of optional poems that will help make your speech even more memorable. So please read our graduation speech examples and see how we can help you make a really impressive speech on a very special day. He is a great example graduation speech from Harvard. It’s one of our favorites.

Please choose a sample speech below!  

Graduation speech by college head, teacher or guest speaker.

This sample graduation speech speaks of the importance of the day and expresses hopes for the future. Such a speech may be given by a Grauate or Student.

Has it ever occurred to you that Graduation day is a bit like looking into a kaleidoscope? It’s full of pictures jumbled together all of which together make up your life. There are the images of your growing years with your family and friends. Then there are the pictures of your student activities, the classmates you met and, finally, the wonderful excitement of today your graduation day. The pictures of your future are very vague because, of course, none of us knows what the future holds.

Today we have the good feel factor that comes from knowing that we have done our best. We have achieved and qualified. We didn’t do it alone of course. All along the way we had the wonderful support of our families and the encouragement and help of our tutors. It’s likely that some of us took this for granted as only our due. Today, though, as mature and newly qualified adults, we recognise that without that back-up we could not have succeeded. So today I know my fellow students would like to join me in saying how much we appreciate all those who have helped make this day possible.

Included in that are our fellow students. They pored over the textbooks with us, drank innumerable cups of coffee with us and exchanged views with us. That is probably what has given us the most important education of all. After all when we enter the working world we will be working with all sorts of people from varying backgrounds and our experience here will tell us this is a good thing, that the world is full of wonderful people with different ideas and talents.

From now on we will be taking our talents and beliefs with us wherever we go .If we have learned anything it is that we have to be adaptable. ready to take chances and go different routes. The day of a job for life is almost gone. These days we have to be ready to update our knowledge, add to our skills and be ready to cope with change.

That’s the challenge before us and it is one that we will all meet in our different ways. Some of us will want to stay at home, others to travel the four corners of the earth. Some will like to work alone while others will want to work in a partnership. Whatever we do our wherever we go we won’t forget today. Hopefully in years to come we will meet up with our friends again at a college re-union. That is, of course something we have to organise so I am sure you will understand that we will have to go out on the town tonight to make our plans.

Finally, I would like to wish my fellow graduates, fellow graduates now that has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? I would like to wish them health and happiness in the future and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever they do they will do it well. After all they are graduates of (Name of college) and that is just another name for the college of excellence.

Today we are throwing our caps in the air Getting ready to go different ways To tackle the world head on my friends And to start on the very first phase Of adult life with all it implies No more running home to mum But making her proud of the lives we lead And showing our dads we’re not dumb. So today as we sit in this great big hall We’d like to give our thanks to you all For being there when we needed you Now it’s our turn to show what we do I don’t know how or why or when But goodbye my friends until we meet again

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Graduation Speech by a Graduate or Valedictorian

This sample graduation speech speaks of the importance of the day and expresses hopes for the future. Such a speech may be given by a Dean or teacher or indeed a visiting speaker.

Graduate Speech Sample

I think Graduation day is a bit like walking a gangplank. You are leaving behind the safety and security of college for the uncertainty and adventure of the rest of your life. Some of you will return to terra firma and resume your studies. The rest of you will pause on that gangplank. Poised over the water below you have no idea what the future will hold, what people you will meet and what will happen to your career.

That is not to say that you do not have your own ideas about that career. You have worked hard while at college and have graduated so you have more than a basic understanding of your subject. You may know exactly what you want to do and, of course, you may realize your dreams. On the other hand life could throw up some surprises and you could find yourself doing something diametrically opposed to what you had planned. So your degree is something like having the security of a lifebelt. It will keep you afloat until you find your own particular niche. In a rapidly changing world you will have to be able to adapt to changing times. You may have to add to your existing qualification or find a new career altogether.

The ship you board may be a luxurious liner or a working vessel. It may bring you around the coast or across the world. You may face fierce storms or have plain sailing and a following wind. You may choose your particular destination or you may just go where the tide brings you. On that ship called life you will find new friends. Some will share your hopes. Others may have their own agenda. Each one will influence you in a different way.

Today I say to you try to be choosy about those friends. It is tempting to befriend those who you feel will help you in your career and of course there is no harm in that. It is good to be willing to keep learning from those who have gone ahead of you. Don’t, however, close your mind to what others may bring to your life to enrich it. That penniless loafer may seem like a good for nothing but be, in reality, a brilliant musician. The plodder may not seem to have much to offer but perhaps he or she will get to the shore before you do. So don’t judge others harshly but do try to choose wisely people who will be good friends to you over the years. Life can be hard and we all need good friends.

Speaking of friends you are leaving some behind today. Over the past few years they have shared your workload, your ambitions and your coffee breaks not to mention your socialising. It is hard to part with them and whatever about the global village the world can be a big place and it’s easy to lose touch. That is why I am suggesting to you that you make concrete arrangements to stay in touch by email or phone. Whatever about the new friends you make there is something special about those who shared your college life and those long talks deep into the night.

Some of you will rush aboard your ship. Others may be more hesitant. Some of you will have plenty of baggage to bring, others will travel lightly. One thing you will all bring is your memories of your growing years and of your families. Today, those who have encouraged you all those years are happy to see you graduate. I know you will agree with me that they are owed a huge dept of gratitude for their support and love. Obviously, judging by your results, you studied hard but you also had help from your tutors and professors. It’s worth mentioning too that a college like this is made up of many different components and many different people. Think, for instance, of the library staff, the canteen staff and those who keep the grounds in such immaculate order. There were many people involved in your graduation and it will be a sign of your maturity that you thank them for their efforts on your behalf. Gratitude to and graciousness towards others will always stand to you in life. We always remember the person who speaks kindly of us so always remember to speak kindly of others too.

Tonight you will be celebrating and quite rightly so. You deserve to have a night on the town. Whether or not your tutors are also celebrating I leave open to you to guess. When tomorrow comes, but obviously not too early in the morning, you can pack for that all important journey. Bring with you the knowledge you have but bring also an open mind. It’s great to have a route planned but be willing to travel the bye ways and to see what they have to offer too. Make a decision that you are going to make a difference in the world, even if it is in one small corner of it. Work hard but do get your priorities right. Always have time for your families and friends. Take time to enjoy the beauties of nature and to care for them because without water and air our planet, and you, cannot survive.

Finally, enjoy the trip. Go on your journey armed with enthusiasm and curiosity. Open your hearts to your fellow passengers and they will surely open theirs to you. I wish you well on your journey and as they say when they launch a ship, “May God bless all who sail in her.”

Here’s to you all as you graduate You’ve studied and have your degrees The world is your oyster and soon you will work At home or perhaps overseas. You’re saying goodbye to tutors and friends And tonight you will party in style And drink champagne and eat cavier And sing and dance for a while. May your ship sail smoothly over the blue And may faraway places they welcome you May the sun shine on you as you go on your way And so as you leave here Bon Voyage I say May your lives be filled with loving and laughter And may you find happiness in your ever after.

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how to make graduation speech for guest speaker

How to write a great graduation speech

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Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology

  • By Edwin Battistella
  • May 10 th 2015

It’s graduation time at many of the nation’s schools and colleges. The commencement ceremony is a great exhalation for all involved and an annual rite of passage celebrating academic achievements. Commencement ceremonies typically feature a visiting dignitary who offers a few thousand inspirational words.

Over the years, I’ve heard more of these speeches than I care to admit and have made my own checklist of suggestions for speakers. For those of you giving commencement speeches or listening to them, here’s my advice:

1. Be just funny enough

The best speakers are knowingly wry and a bit self-deprecating. Here’s Michael Bloomberg, opening his 2014 Harvard Commencement address, with a typical opening:

I’m excited to be here, not only to address the distinguished graduates and alumni at Harvard University’s 363rd commencement but to stand in the exact spot where Oprah stood last year. OMG.

Compare that with President Kennedy, speaking at Yale in 1962, who invoked the Cambridge-New Haven rivalry to tease his hosts a bit:

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the very deep honor that you have conferred upon me. As General de Gaulle occasionally acknowledges America to be the daughter of Europe, so I am pleased to come to Yale, the daughter of Harvard. It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree.

Then again, presidents can get away with that sort of thing, but most speakers can’t.

2. Be like Shakespeare


Keep the diversity of your audience in mind. You are speaking to students, but the students are not all the same.  There are honor students—summa, magna, and cum laude–as well as those who are still sweating out a few grades. You are also speaking to families and to the university faculty.  Shakespeare had that same problem—needing to address those in the Lord’s room, the galleries, and the ground pit. He solved it by repeating himself, expressing ideas in both the Latinate phrases and in plain Anglo-Saxon, as when he combined unfamiliar words like incarnadine with familiar ones like red .

Here is Ellen DeGeneres, giving the commencement speech at Tulane in 2009. Talking about the honorary degree she is receiving, she plays with the languages of her audience:

I thought that you had to be a famous alumnus – alumini – aluminum – alumis – you had to graduate from this school.

She speaks to both the people who are not quite sure of the singular of alumni , and to those who are.

3. Think about bite-sized ideas

Your speech is likely to come up as a topic of discussion later in the day at lunch or dinner, if only to deflect attention from other topics like job interviews and loan repayment. What will the different audiences take away from your speech? What will students say when Grandma asks, “So what did you think of the speaker?”

As you develop your theme, try to have a memorable, quotable line for each segment of your audience—the grads, the families, and the faculty. And remember that your audience can’t rewind your speech or mark it with a yellow highlighter, so be sure to illustrate your easily-recognizable theme with smaller, easily-digestable examples.

Neil de Grasse Tyson did this in his 2012 speech at Western New England University.  His theme was the prevalence of fuzzy thinking and the desire for choices rather than fresh thought. He touched on the theme repeatedly, with examples ranging from a lunch date with his sister, to a spelling bee, to a job interview, throwing in an allusion to Plato (for the faculty) and ending up with the point that thinking is painful hard work. Journalist Sharyn Alfonsi also did it in her commencement address to the journalism school at Ole Miss in 2013, as she talked about work and perseverance, and illustrated those values through her own career’s challenges, including job applications, tough days, and bad bosses. Choose examples that everyone can relate to and can talk about over lunch.

4. Avoid the “Real World” and other clichés

Be careful when using clichés in your speech. Tempting as it may be to tell the graduates that they are about to enter the “Real World” (where you have thrived), you should avoid that. Savvy students will see you as out of touch, since many of them have been working all along and are often managing any number of real life issues.

You may want to avoid talking about the value of their education as well. They know the value. That’s why they went to college. (It’s the cost they are worried about.)

And don’t tell them they are going to die. What if someone had just died on campus? Steve Jobs could get away with talking about death at Stanford in 2005 (“And yet death is the destination we all share”), but he had cheated death at the time.

On a rare occasion, though, you can subvert the clichés. Jon Stewart, speaking at William and Mary in 2004, presents the so-called “Real World” this way:

Let’s talk about the “Real World” for a moment… I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt: we broke it… But here’s the good news: you fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people.


David Foster Wallace took the liberal arts cliché by the horns in his 2005 speech at Kenyon College, telling the audience:

So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think.”

Wallace then used that to suggest a new perspective—that education is about choosing what to think about.

And screenwriter Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, tricked up the death theme at Wesleyan in 2013, opening with a reference to the horror genre and the live-life-to-the-fullest cliché:

What I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.

5. Keep it short

Unless you are a national leader using the speech to announce a major policy, you won’t need more than 20 minutes, tops. Twelve minutes would be even better. The average speaker reads about 120 words a minute, so that’s about 1,400-2,400 words or 9-15 pages (double spaced, 16 point font). Sitting in the sun, the students, families, and faculty will all appreciate brevity.

Here is Poet Laureate Billy Collins speaking at Colorado College in 2008:

I am going to speak for 13 minutes. I think you deserve to know that this will be a finite experience. It is well-known in the world of public speaking that there is no pleasure you can give an audience that compares to the pleasure they get when it is over, so you can look forward to experiencing that pleasure 13 minutes from now.

One of the most memorable commencement addresses at my institution was given by a retired speech professor, Leon Mulling. It was just one-minute long, consisted entirely of verbs (Go. Do. Create. Laugh. Love. Live . ) and received thunderous applause.

6. Above all: relax and enjoy yourself

To do well as a commencement speaker, you need gentle humor, Shakespearean universal accessibility, something memorable for each audience, both a theme and relatable examples, an awareness of clichés, and brevity. And if it makes you nervous to think that college graduates, families, faculty, and even YouTube will be scoring your speech, remember—there’ll be another commencement speaker up on the stage next year.

Image Credit: “Graduation Day” by Md saad andalib. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr .

Edwin L. Battistella teaches linguistics and writing at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he has served as a dean and as interim provost. He is the author of Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology  (OUP, 2014),  Do You Make These Mistakes in English? (OUP, 2009), Bad Language (OUP, 2005), and The Logic of Markedness (OUP, 1996).


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Recent Comments

Very good advice and a fun article to read. My graduation speaker 45 years ago was the president of an African country and he spoke about something relating to Africa. It was memorable. The “it” was the weather that afternoon. It was hot and humid and the gowns were an extra layer on top of regular clothes. Oh, the campus political environment was also memorable. I wore an “equal” sign stenciled on a white cloth armband, urging equal admissions of men and women; the university was concerned that admitting more women would reduce long term importance of the college (useless nonworking women) plus eventual lower alumni donations. Oh, yes, and there was Carling Black Label beer at the reception afterward, chosen because it was donated by an alumnus. My father attended. My girlfriend’s parents were there, watching her graduate, and they had some suspicions about us, but thought we were being really careful. Yeah, that was pretty much it.

I loved it thanks

Really good

I will be a commencement speaker this spring at a Pennsylvania university and I thought your article was a great start for me as I prepare. Thanks!

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16 Best Graduation Speeches That Leave a Lasting Impression

By Kristi Kellogg and Noor Brara

Listen to words of wisdom from the best graduation speeches.

Some of the most impactful and inspiring sentiments are shared during graduation speeches delivered by the leaders we look up to. Graduation speeches from celebrities , entrepreneurs, authors and other influential thinkers are motivational, inspiring, thought-provoking and just might make you reach for the nearest tissue. After four years of hard work, stress, and exhausting self-discovery, lucky graduates are privy to a life-changing speech to top it all off.

Here, we rounded up up 16 of the best graduation speeches of all time, including words of wisdom from Natalie Portman, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and more.

1. Steve Jobs: Stanford, 2005

"You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."

2. Michelle Obama: Tuskegee University, 2015

"I've found that this journey has been incredibly freeing. Because no matter what happened, I had the piece of mind knowing that all of the chatter, the name-calling, the doubting...all of it was just noise. It did not define me, it didn't change who I was, and most importantly, it couldn't hold me back."

3. Natalie Portman: Harvard, 2015

"I just directed my first film. I was completely unprepared, but my own ignorance to my own limitations looked like confidence and got me into the director's chair. Once there, I had to figure it all out, and my belief that I could handle these things, contrary to all evidence of my ability to do so was half the battle. The other half was very hard work. The experience was the deepest and most meaningful one of my career."

4. Amy Poehler: Harvard University, 2011

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"What I have discovered is this: You can't do it alone … Listen. Say 'yes.' Live in the moment. Make sure you play with people who have your back. Make big choices early and often."

5. Meryl Streep: Barnard College, 2010

"This is your time and it feels normal to you but really there is no normal. There's only change, and resistance to it and then more change."

6. David Foster Wallace: Kenyon College, 2005

"Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master."

7. Barack Obama: Howard University, 2016

"You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes."

8. Kerry Washington: George Washington University, 2013

"You and you alone are the only person who can live the life that can write the story that you were meant to tell."

9. Conan O'Brien: Dartmouth College, 2011

"There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized. Today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality … Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen."

10. J.K. Rowling: Harvard, 2008

"I stopped pretending to be anything than what I was. My greatest fear had been realized. I had an old typewriter and a big idea. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

11. Oprah Winfrey: Harvard University, 2013

"Learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are. And then figure out what is the next right move. And the key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional G.P.S. that can tell you which way to go."

12. Joss Whedon: Wesleyan University, 2013

"You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key—not only to consciousness–but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It's not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself."

13. George Saunders: Syracuse University, 2013

"Do all the other things, the ambitious things … Travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop)—but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness."

14. Nora Ephron: Wellesley College, 1996

"Be the heroine of your life, not the victim."

15. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Wellesley College, 2015

"As you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in. Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way."

16. Admiral William H. McRaven: University of Texas at Austin, 2014

"If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right."

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Graduation Speech Samples and Ideas to Inspire You

Delivering a graduation speech is a great honor. So, congratulations if you have been selected as a valedictorian speaker. Here are a few graduation speeches you can draw inspiration from.

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Graduation Speeches

Graduation can be one of the most memorable moments in a person’s life. It is a moment when you celebrate your accomplishments with your peers. The graduation ceremony is a melange of emotions, along with pride and satisfaction there is this anxiety about future and a sinking feeling about bidding farewell to friends and alma mater. If you are a valedictorian or a salutatorian, then you also have to deal with the nervousness of delivering a graduation speech. Speeches by luminaries and students are often the most important part of a graduation ceremony.

Graduation Speech Ideas

Oftentimes, graduation speeches are tremendously boring as the new graduates are rarely proficient orators. Since, these speakers are often students excelling in academics, they may not be always great writers or rhetoricians. However, if you avoid unsurprising cliches and the common drab topics, you can indeed make your graduation speech interesting. You can draw inspiration from commencement speeches delivered by eminent personalities on graduation. Add personal touches to your speech by narrating funny anecdotes or exemplary achievements of your class during graduation years. You may also express your views regarding the current affairs or political situation.

Delivering inspirational quotes is a good idea, but again avoid cliches. Brevity is the most important factor to be considered while delivering graduation speeches. Since, audience would be most interested in the commencement speech, it would make sense to keep your speech short and sweet. Remember, it is your personal experience and genuine feelings about your school, friends that will keep your audience captivated and not some heavy duty stuff, loaded with social, political jargon. Graduation party speeches can be a bit playful and informal, but make sure you do not offend anyone with snide remarks in your speech.

Sample Valedictorian Speeches

Good evening honored guests, ladies and gentlemen and the Graduating Class of [year]. Robert Gallagher said that change is inevitable – except from a vending machine. As you stand on the brink of moving into life beyond [name of educational institution], change will be inevitable! It is inevitable and indeed gratifying to see that our Graduating Class of [year] matured and became skills proficient ready to tackle and further their life-long education. It is inevitable that structures and processes and relationships will change in their day-to-day lives. It is inevitable that they will face new challenges and it is inevitable that things may seem a little different in the year ahead. Yes, life is definitely going to become a little ‘shaken up and stirred’. Speech Example

Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, teachers and administrators. We stand, gathered together to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2001 Class of Mattawan High School. To my fellow classmates, we’ve made it. We’ve finally made it. We are graduating. Congratulations. Congratulations not only to us graduates, but also congratulations to our teachers, parents, friends, families and administrators. Our success is your success, for you have given us the freedom to dare, the courage to excel and the belief that we can achieve our best. Together for the last time, we stand poised at the very edge of graduation, looking towards a bright future. Soon each of us will go forth, in his or her unique direction, seeking to make a mark upon the world. Our adulthood, so long anticipated, has now arrived. We have grown up. We must seize our future and taking it into our own hands, do with it what we will, striving towards excellence. Excerpts from Valedictorian Speech, Mattawan H.S. 2001

Graduation Commencement Speeches

What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time. – John Kennedy, American University 1963

Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary… Stay hungry, stay foolish. – Steve Jobs, Stanford 2005

Graduation speeches are all about being yourself and expressing your genuine feelings of gratitude towards all those who made your achievement possible for you. So, prepare well and get ready to stir emotions in those with whom you spent the most important years of your life.

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40+ Graduation Speech Ideas and Tips

Written by  Shutterfly Community Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Graduations and commencements ceremonies mark major transitional moments in your life. They celebrate all the hard work you put into your education and achievements, and look forward to the future. Through the years of school, you’ve made new friends, developed new skills, and discovered new things about yourself. And it can be extremely difficult to summarize these experiences into a single graduation speech. How do you explain how much the experience meant to you? How do you properly send off all your incredible peers? Don’t worry– we’re here to help you craft that perfect graduation speech. When you’re ready to put pen the paper, look to our graduation speech ideas below.

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The process on writing a graduation speech, graduation speech themes, commencement speech ideas and tips.

Even if you love to write, or have a lot you want to say–writer’s block is a common obstacle when it comes to speech writing. The best way to beat it? Just start writing. Know that your first draft (or the ten or twenty after that) doesn’t have to be perfect, or even very good. Just start writing all your thoughts down and eventually your speech will start to take shape. For specific guidance on speech writing, look to the steps below.

male valedictorian speaking at graduation

How To Start A Graduation Speech

Ready to start writing? Do your best to follow the guidelines below:

  • Find all the inspiration you can. Search for and save your favorite graduation speeches, look for the perfect quotes , and try to determine the key themes to what inspires you.
  • Pick a theme. Once you’ve found all your inspiration sources and come up with a general idea of what you want to talk about, make a list of key themes. Circle the one most important to you.
  • Write down your favorite quotes and messages, and start planning where in your speech you want them to appear.
  • Start off by introducing yourself. Not sure what to say? Use the graduation speech introduction examples below.

Graduation Speech Introductions Examples

  • “Thank you [person who introduced you]. And thank you to the students, teachers, parents, and staff who made these four years everything that they were.”
  • “It’s my honor today to deliver the commencement address for this incredible student body.”
  • “It is my pleasure to welcome students, families, and faculty to graduation day at [school’s name]. Every one of you have made an impact on the graduates who sit here today.”
  • “I stand here before you, looking back on four years of legacy we’ve all made together.”

How To Write A Graduation Speech

Once you’ve reached the body of your speech, consider keeping the tips below in mind:

  • Take time to write out things you want to cover. Don’t edit yet, just write. Try to stay as undistracted as possible while doing this step.
  • Take stock of your key messages and favorite phrases. Save these. Consider highlighting them to keep track.
  • When in doubt, tell a story. Talk about your personal experiences and relate them to the whole class.
  • Check out our graduation messages and wishes for special messages you might want to include.
  • Once you’ve exhausted everything you want to say, take a break. Don’t edit until at least 24 hours later.
  • Cut down everything that you don’t absolutely love. As painful as it might be to cut down your work, it’ll pay off in the long run.
  • Connect the dots, but stay concise and to the point. Keep it simple.
  • Repetition of key points can help your peers remember more of your speech.

How To End A Graduation Speech

Once you’re ready to end your speech, use these guidelines to find a memorable ending.

  • End with something memorable that ties it all together. This may be a quotes, repetition of your central message, or just a fun send off.
  • Start to edit. Cut it down. Then cut it down again.
  • If appropriate, consider closing with one of these graduation bible verses .
  • Have someone edit your speech for you. A fresh pair of eyes makes a world of difference when it comes to editing.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Even if you have great presentation skills, only practice makes perfect!

Grad makes a speech in her graduation ceremony.

Looking for the perfect graduation speech theme to tie it all together? Then check out our favorite funny, creative, and general themes for graduation speeches below:

Funny Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Touch on Current (School) Events: A lot can happen in four years. Take the opportunity to reflect on past school happenings like beating your rival school, an accidental mishap in one of the science labs, or a senior prank. The students will surely love it.
  • Turn Humility to Wisdom: Mistakes turn into lessons learned, and humility can help you turn funny and embarrassing stories into wisdom for the ages. Share them with your peers.
  • Insta-Worthy: Find inspiration for our funny graduation captions to use for your graduation speech.
  • Make it a Classic: Use the classic, hilarious quotes from our graduation quotes and sayings resource to keep your speech lighthearted and fun.

Creative Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Step Out of Tradition: Step away from the traditional grad speech format. Try something like spoken word poetry, or using unique patterns and metaphors in your speech.
  • Tell a Unique Story: We’re always ready to listen to new and interesting stories. What makes your experience so unique? What lesson has it taught you?
  • Children’s Book Inspired: Use the classic children’s book quotes we’ve found for you to inspire a nostalgia filled grad speech.
  • A Class Anthem: Use lyrics from a special graduation song to inspire a full speech, and connect back to the song for a theme your peers will love.

Class President Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Never Give Up: Inspire your class to always keep striving for their goals by utilizing our words of encouragement .
  • A Thankful Class: Take the chance of delivering the graduation speech to thank everyone who helped make it happen. Feel free to browse our gratitude quotes and appreciation quotes for help.
  • Inspire Them Until the End: Center your commencement speech around a key inspirational idea or message. Visit our resource on inspirational quotes about life for help finding one.

Graduate Gives Speech In Auditorium

Want a few final tips and tricks for making your graduation speech extra special? We’ve got you covered. Look to our advice below:

High School Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Look to the future. Talk about the multitude of opportunities and possibilities your class has.
  • Thank your teachers and parents. You can never thank the adults in your life enough for supporting and helping you all these years.
  • Recall class memories. Nostalgia is a powerful tool that when used well can make a speech more memorable.
  • Try not to rely on pop culture references. Pop culture fads come and go, and using them in your speech might mean it won’t age very well.
  • Ask yourself: what makes this class unique? If you have an answer, feel free to share it.
  • Is there anything you want to say but can’t fit it into your speech? If so, you may know exactly what to write in your yearbook for friends and classmates.

8th Grade Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Focus on the positive. Even if not everything was always perfect in your school experience, it’s important to focus on the positive during a graduation speech.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Long speeches typically mean not everyone will be able to pay attention. Keep it short and to the point.
  • Remember to be inclusive. Talk about things that all of your peers can relate to, not just individual groups.

Elementary Graduation Speech Ideas

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Use a lighthearted tone- Don’t try to make it too sentimental. Keeping the kids happy means the ceremony will go smoother.
  • Give examples and short stories from the year. Elementary students usually connect to stories well and this will help keep their attention.
  • Remember kids love to laugh. A joke here and there might be the perfect touch.
  • If you’re helping a student write a speech, walk them through it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but their parents are sure to love it.

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Resources Related to Graduation Speech Ideas

If you liked this resource on graduation speech ideas and you’re looking for similar content, make sure to check out our related graduation resources.

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    If you go blank during your speech, don't panic. Instead, focus your eyes on one person in the audience, which will make it look as though you are being forceful and dramatic. Pause for about four seconds before focusing on someone else. Repeat until you have collected your thoughts.

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    First of all, congratulations to all of you. You should be very, very proud of yourselves for accomplishing this goal. Well done. I know you must all be excited to get your hands on your diplomas and run out into the world.

  17. How to Craft An Outstanding Commencement Speech

    A good speech, like a good story, has a beginning, middle, and an end. Plan your speech to grab people's attention in the beginning, keep their attention through the middle, and tie it together in the end. Focus the body of your speech on telling a story, offering some insight, or sharing lessons learned. At the end, summarize your main points ...

  18. Sample Graduation Speech by College Head, Teacher or Guest Speaker

    Some will share your hopes. Others may have their own agenda. Each one will influence you in a different way. Today I say to you try to be choosy about those friends. It is tempting to befriend those who you feel will help you in your career and of course there is no harm in that.

  19. Graduation Speech Examples

    Graduate Speech Sample. I think Graduation day is a bit like walking a gangplank. You are leaving behind the safety and security of college for the uncertainty and adventure of the rest of your life. Some of you will return to terra firma and resume your studies. The rest of you will pause on that gangplank.

  20. How to write a great graduation speech

    5. Keep it short. Unless you are a national leader using the speech to announce a major policy, you won't need more than 20 minutes, tops. Twelve minutes would be even better. The average speaker reads about 120 words a minute, so that's about 1,400-2,400 words or 9-15 pages (double spaced, 16 point font).

  21. 16 Best Graduation Speeches That Leave a Lasting Impression

    Culture 16 Best Graduation Speeches That Leave a Lasting Impression Inspiration from the best commencement speeches ever. By Kristi Kellogg and Noor Brara April 17, 2020 Back portrait of...

  22. Graduation Speech Samples and Ideas to Inspire You

    Speeches by luminaries and students are often the most important part of a graduation ceremony. Graduation Speech Ideas. Oftentimes, graduation speeches are tremendously boring as the new graduates are rarely proficient orators. Since, these speakers are often students excelling in academics, they may not be always great writers or rhetoricians.

  23. 7 Things I Wish The Guest Speaker Would've Said At Graduation

    College graduation should be a perfect day, but her speech was forgettable. Too often guest speakers try to make us feel amazing while we're sitting outside sweating our butts off in the early ...

  24. 40+ Graduation Speech Ideas and Tips 2019

    Graduation Speech Introductions Examples. "Thank you [person who introduced you]. And thank you to the students, teachers, parents, and staff who made these four years everything that they were.". "It's my honor today to deliver the commencement address for this incredible student body.".

  25. TUM School of Management on Instagram: " #Graduation 2023:

    968 likes, 6 comments - tum.school.of.management on November 27, 2023: " #Graduation 2023: #Congratulations to all our graduates on reaching this significa ...