Graduation Speech

Definition A graduation speech is a speech delivered by an academic institution graduate/an alumnus/a celebrity/a politician at a commencement ceremony in front of the class of graduates and the ceremony attendants.


The genre of a graduation speech gives much freedom to a speaker. Every graduation speech is a unique combination of personal reminiscences, in-jokes, serious messages, warnings, recommendations, pieces of advise, etc. There are some distinct patterns of structuring a graduation speech, though. We can name at least four of them: 1) A pattern of an extended metaphor: this pattern implies finding a convincing image to compare one’s experience with (e.g. comparing the university life with a road, a winding path, an intersection, a steep hill). 2) A “thank you” pattern: a graduation speech of the kind is dedicated to expressing gratitude to parents, teachers and mates and is structured accordingly. 3) A “personalized” pattern: a graduation speech is based upon personal recollections and is likely to contain in-jokes and presupposes some vivid interactions with mates and teachers; 4) A pattern of generalizing life lessons received in the academic institution: a graduation speech represents at attempt to share important observations and principles, which were taught to one at university (e.g. that notions of winning and losing are relative and there is no victory without a loss, etc.) 5) A complex pattern: a graduation speech incorporates all the above patterns as its elements. The complex pattern is highly recommended. Topics/basic concepts Traditionally, a graduation speech encompasses a set of basic concepts, which are often considered stereotypical. These are the following: a) The importance of remembering one’s roots; b) Usefulness of mistakes and losses; c) World as a source of inspiration and motivation; d) Education as a universal toolkit to create a perfect future; e) Finding personal principles to live up to; f) Never letting failures make you give up, etc. Requirements General requirements of logical structuring and emotional representation are applicable to a graduation speech.

Marco Douglas