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A Commencement Speech at Graduation

Updated on February 21, 2015
Graduation day, the commencement speech has begun.
Graduation day, the commencement speech has begun. | Source

I recently attended my grandson's graduation ceremony (from a two year college). I was not overly interested in what the key speaker had to say, and wondered what I would do in her position. Obviously I will never be asked to give a commencement speech since I hold no degrees, am not a successful business entrepreneur, nor am I a famous personality. However, I am a parent and grandparent and I worked in the educational field for 18 years and have learned a thing or two.

If I were to write a commencement speech I would certainly do a lot of research because writing a commencement speech is no easy task. There are links all over the Internet on how to write a commencement speech that include; how to write a graduation speech, writing a commencement speech that doesn't bore college grads, advice to commencement speakers, and so on and so on. Would I use these resources or depend on my own?

Writing a commencement speech seems easy at first but there are lots of things to consider. For example, your audience. Granted you are speaking to the graduates, but what about the college professors, parents and guests who are listening to this speech as well. You don't want to talk down to anyone nor do you want to talk over their heads. Thanks to technology if you do happen to bore the graduates they'll just whip out their cell phones and start texting.

If I were to write a commencement speech, let's say for a two year college graduation after the proper greetings to all present it would go something like this:

Ten years from now you will not remember me nor my speech, but I'm really hoping you will remember one or two things that I say to you today just as you remember things that happened here during your two year stay. You are now college graduates....yes, graduates. You have completed your two years and you are about to leave with a 'degree'. A credentialed individual. Going to a two year college near home gave you the advantage of not having to spend money on housing while still getting the college experience, well mostly.

This is not the end nor is it the beginning. It is another dot on the timeline that is your life. You know the dots, when you took your first step, when you started school, when you went to high school, when you had your first kiss, when you graduated from high school and when you started college. Obviously I have omitted a lot of the dots in your life but I think you get the idea. You are adding dots to that timeline with everything you do and now new dots will be added whether it is to further your education or begin a career.

Timeline that is your life
Timeline that is your life | Source
A  young Bill Gates.
A young Bill Gates. | Source

You can look at famous people and see where some of their dots lie...for example, look at the world's most famous college dropouts; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, James Cameron, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tom Hanks. I only tell you this now because you're graduating. These men are more the exception than the rule but they prove that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Of course there are many famous and rich people who are college graduates, the multi-billion dollar, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, billionaire investor Warren Buffet; Massachusetts Institute of Technology has 11 billionaire alumni, Harvard's hall of billionaires is more than double that of Stanford, which has 25 10-figure alumni. Get the picture?

As Dr.Seuss once said, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.”

And that's what it's all about, today, and all the days you spent in college, "where to go". While you're deciding do not be afraid to dream or to imagine. Each day is a new adventure and no one knows what the next day will bring. When you see an opportunity don't let it go by, grab it! Every opportunity leads to another. Of course no one wants to start out small but Bill Gates didn't start out owning the Microsoft we know today.

Don't forget your family and friends. No matter where you go or what you do they will always be there for you if you treat them well. "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." C. S. Lewis

Take a minute, right now. Stop and look at the person sitting to your right. Now look at the person sitting to your left. Look around at all the faces of your fellow graduates. They have been your friends and colleagues for the past two years. Some of them will be lifelong friends, some you will never see again after today, but each of them has been a part of your life for the past two years. Hold them dear in your memory and always be willing to help them out as a friend, no matter when it may be.

Pennies | Source
Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle | Source

You have graduated in tough economic times. Nothing is going to come easy to you. You are a generation who may not do better than your parents, something that's happening for the first time in American history. A tough or bad economy affects your life in ways you don't even dream about . It affects not just your ability to get a job but whether or not you'll be able to keep the job you get. You find yourself cutting back on things like gasoline or maybe even electric or heating oil. You may have to learn to make do with what you've got or you can make something of it turn and your 'disadvantage' into an 'advantage'. Create something new or a new way of doing something old. If you don't believe me read about the Depression and how people survived it and some actually thrived. You can too. Did you know the chocolate chip cookie was invented during the Depression? How about the game of Monopoly or the car radio? I tell you these things to help you realize you are going to be challenged but you can meet and even exceed that challenge after all, you're a college graduate! Have faith in yourself and what you do.

College enrollment has increased elevenfold since 1940, from 1.5 million to 17.9 million. I guess the news is out, with a college degree you can make more money, have more job opportunities, and, are you ready for this? It is said college graduates have longer life spans.

You are those college graduates, all of these things are, friends, more money, better jobs and longer lives!!! Woo who! When does it start? That's the tricky part. No one knows for sure. What you do know is "You are the guy who'll decide where to go." And don't forget all those college graduate billionaires.

You grew up with Harry Potter and his ability to face any situation and draw on his inner strength. "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry faces every challenge and finds a way through. From the time he was only a small 12 year old until the last installment Harry fights his inner demons as well as Valdemort. He doesn't have a lot of money but he gets his education and depends on his friends to get him through. He finds his way and decides where to go. Be courageous like Harry, don't be afraid to fight your battles and make your life better whenever you can.

I've bounced around a bit in my speech but then things bounce around in life too. You've been living your life for over eighteen years with lots of guidance and people telling you what to do, now you start making your own decisions. Remember what you've been taught and the good direction your life has been taking. Keep on that path and never give up. Nothing is impossible, decide where to go!

Let me know what you think about this speech...leave a comment. I should probably keep my day job ;)

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

If you had to listen to this as a commencement speech would you

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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Paul, as a high school senior I am sure it was much more difficult for you to write your speech. The fact that you had to memorize it surely didn't make it any easier but you can look back now and smile. Imagine if you had to write it today how good it would be! Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Hi Mary!

      Your commencement speech was very good and it held my interest from beginning to end. When I graduated from high school, I had to give a speech because I was a co-valedictorian. I remember that the topic was, “Go Forth to Learn," and the other guy talked about "Go Forth to Serve." Our principal decided on the topics and I recall having to memorize the speech. I couldn't even use 3x5 index cards! I can't remember what I exactly talked about, but I do know that my speech wasn't as long or as interesting as yours. Voted up and sharing with followers.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Well Jhamann I guess I'll have to leave a copy for you to read :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 5 years ago from Reno NV

      Well done. You can read your speech at my childrens graduation but it will be awhile since Sam is only starting Kindergarten. Jamie

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Michelle, when I started out writing this it was more because I was annoyed at the last speech I heard, but once I got into it I enjoyed it and wanted to make it interesting and purposeful.

      I am especially complimented by you teaches 12345! Dr. Suess had much to teach us!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Very motivating speech. Your challenge to them to pursue their path and purpose is good. Love your reference to Dr Suess.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Your commencement speech here was far more meaningful to our present and future batch of graduates that any other I've heard..most of them are boring because they lack sincerity and the desire to prompt these graduates with regards the future. You've given them much to be aware of, in a heartfelt manner. Thanks for the write, which I share!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Rolly...I've heard some really great ones to but oh the boring ones are so boring! Hugs and Blessings back to you.

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Mary... great work here... I have sat through many and yes some have been dry and dead. There have been those who have delivered a riveting example of what comes next and that is life and the real world.

      I have sat through speeches as a graduate and they are the final words of those who have invested into your life. To me they are a final word of an education and they should be listened too and heeded... great work here...

      Hugs and Blessings

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Linda. If we could just make young people see we do understand their world!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Good luck to your grandson and all of the recent graduates! You managed to pen a commencement speech grounded in the challenges of current economic times, while giving them the inspiration to create a better tomorrow. I LOVED it! Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      You make me blush. I guess years of sitting on the other side made me wonder if I could make it interesting. Thanks so much stclairjack!

    • stclairjack profile image

      Stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      of all the graduations i've been to, including the little country school that just graduated its 8th graders,... more often than not, it seems like the formula for writing a Commencement Speech seems to be,...

      [(check email + check facebook)+ click print] = done

      a long reading of cute stories and worn out plattitudes,... i just sat there wondering if water boarding weren't for wussies.

      haven't heard a GOOD speech of this sort in years.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I'm clear ;) Thanks weestro, glad you enjoyed.

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 5 years ago from Virginia

      Bravo tillsontitan, you had better clear your schedule next may! Great job, Voted up!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Lord. Good to know you are around. I meant nobody compared to the likes of Bill Gates as far as the world is concerned, but thank you. That photo is ALL over the Internet!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

      Congrats to your grandson! Actually goes to you too TillsonTitan! You are not a nobody...please!! We appreciate your work, and sometimes we are away, but we are around. This hub is full of emotions, and OMG Bill! Lol! Would he able to pay a billion bucks just to get hold of that pic!?


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thank you Donna. Wouldn't it be nice if my hub was a motivation to someone.

      Xstatic, thanks for the votes. Evidently, I like to write. I wonder if I could make more money writing speeches ;) Obviously I love your writing so had to include you in my profile list!

      Hubert, I love your sense of humor.

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 5 years ago

      Can I have my certificate now? I never got a degree either. I did have a bad fever once that reached a fairly high degree.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      UP all the way across! You should make yourself available to write these things. Good advice put into langueage and examples that young people can relate to.

      Oh, I just noticed that I am included in a list on your profile. I am flattere!d

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 5 years ago from Fort Myers

      That was a beautiful speech, motivational to say the least. I am sure it will be of help to someone.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks SS. People watching is certainly a must but that's another hub ;)

      Glad you liked it Billy...I can't imagine doing it for real and admire that you were asked and did give speeches.

      Congrats Effer on your grandson's graduation. So you think I did okay? I can always count on you to enjoy. You know I'd speak for you anytime.

      Thanks Cleaner, you are so right.

    • cleaner3 profile image

      cleaner3 5 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      very eloquent and great write. nothing is impossible, only improbable!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I attended my grand daughter's graduation from SUNY, Fredonia last week-end. My FIRST granchild....and I don't need to tell you my pride was at it's peak.

      The Commencement speaker was a former graduate....a "big Kahuna"...corporate Attorney from Washington D.C.

      His speech was fairly interesting.

      GF.....YOU JUST BLEW THAT BIG KAHUNA OUT OF THE AUDITORIUM!!! If I ever had need of an eloquent speaker for any important event (and you never know!) I'd hire you in a heart beat. BRAVO!!!! Here here!!!! UP & are amazing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I would be glad to listen to that speech of yours. I have been to dozens of graduations and generally never listened after the first minute or so because they put me to sleep. Then I ended up giving three myself and realized just how hard a job it is...very nerve-wracking! Great hub!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Congrats to your grandson!!!

      I've been to a few graduation ceremonies...HS and College and I tend to people watch more then anything. There are always tons of people to entertain me. Of course I make a lot of noise when the graduates I am there for are announced!:)