We Can Learn a Lot from Commencement Speeches



We Can Learn a Lot from Commencement Speeches

| Tina Bakehouse


The month of May represents graduations: college, high school, even elementary. The graduate receives a diploma or a formal degree and attends a commencement ceremony to celebrate.

Commencement emphasizes a beginning or start.

Every commencement ceremony has a series of speeches, from graduates, to teachers, and guests.

These speeches teach us.

They connect us.

They inspire.

One of my high school classmate’s graduation speech still resonates. She individualized her talk, sharing specific anecdotes of our 12-years together, highlighting each of the 41 students.

We laughed.
We cried.
And for the last time, we connected as a class.

Twenty-five years later, I fail to remember details of my high school ceremony.

I do, however, remember my feelings from her words, even though I was sitting on a hard chair in a hot high school gymnasium.

As Maya Angelou reminds us, “…people will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will not forget how you made them feel.””

Every day, you communicate with others. Every day, you can choose to connect.

What can we learn from commencement speeches to enhance our speaker style?

From Insights Success’s website, we can learn the following:

Develop an Emotional G.P.S.

In Oprah’s 2013 Harvard commencement speech, she said, “I know this, if you’re willing to listen to, be guided by, that still small voice that is the G.P.S. within yourself…you’ll be okay.”

This emotional G.P.S. helps us tune into the person, the given context, and ourselves. By being more self-aware, we communicate our message more effectively.

Turn off the noise of others.

In Steve Job’s 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Worry less about the judgements of others and make the most of each situation to communicate authentically.

Imagine better.

Finally, J.K Rowling said in her 2008 Harvard speech, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

As speakers, whatever topic you’re addressing, to whatever audience, you can imagine better—not just for you, but for your audience. Find the passion within and bring it out to your audience.

Enjoy this month’s commencement ceremonies, as they’re celebrating new beginnings.