Enter graduation info:
Name: Your School:
Welcome the audience and let them know what the speech is about
Thank you all for coming. And thank you, professors, for putting up with us for 4 years.
Thank you all for coming. Your support over the last 4 years as been invaluable, through all the ups and downs of [INSTITUTION TYPE] life.
Fellow classmates – we did it! I know we’re all excited for the next step, but I’d like to take a minute and look back at some of the moments that made our time together so special.
Hello, everyone. For those who don’t know me, my name is Jason, and I’m the Class of 2020’s valedictorian.
Hello! I’m Jason, and I’m the Class of 2020’s valedictorian. I’m the valedictorian. Sorry, I had to say that twice – my mom made me do it.
Friends and family – welcome! We’re so happy you’re here to join us today for our graduation.
CHANGE + GROWTH LESSONS:
Tell stories about how you’ve all grown as people. Crowds love hearing how people have improved.
I’ve learned so much in my time here. Some of it’s been book-learning…but it’s the outside-the-classroom moments that I’ll really treasure. I’d never heard of “office hours”, but that’s where I got to know my professors. That’s where they gave me the chance to push back, challenge ideas, and stretch my brain.
4 years is a long time, but right now it feels like our time here at The Academy went by in a flash. I still remember sitting here as a freshman during orientation week – it really does feel like yesterday. Since then I’ve changed my major 4 times, studied with professors whose books I’d read in high school, and taught classes as a TA.
When I first started here at The Academy, I was a timid little kid. I remember the first few weeks of school – I was totally overwhelmed with the amount of work, the level of the work, and the general sense of independence (and responsibility!!). Somewhere along the way, I started taking a more active part in student leadership, through [STUDENT ORGANIZATION], and it totally transformed my experience at The Academy. Instead of just academics, I discovered a way to connect my values to real action here in [CITY], and it’s become a part of my identity.
Of all the projects I worked on in the last 4 years, [PROJECT] was by far the most important. We spend years and years learning in classrooms and from textbooks….but [PROJECT] was totally different. I got to work in the field and see what [SUBJECT] is all about.
I joined [STUDENT ORGANIZATION] on Day 1 of orientation. I’d never done anything like it before…but I was hooked immediately. I want to thank our faculty advisor, Mr. Smith, for training us, organizing the activities, and creating an outlet for us that was about more than just books. You opened my eyes to a different world – and I plan on staying involved long after I graduate.
My time here at The Academy totally changed me over the last few years. I grew up in a town where everyone looked the same, sounded the same, and did the same things. Coming here to The Academy was a shock – in the best possible way! I met people from all over the world, studied abroad, and had my eyes opened on issues I never knew existed.
Before coming to The Academy, I was a great student. I aced my tests, always did my homework, and always followed the rules. But here…I was taught to break those rules. Color outside the lines. Flex my creative muscle. It’s totally changed how I express myself and how I think. I’m so grateful to all the teachers who pushed me to question things, challenge conventional rules, and reshape my identity.
GIVING THANKS TO THE SCHOOL:
Show appreciation for your school by calling out a person or class or whatever that had an impact.
My Statistics teacher, Mr. Smith, deserves a special thanks. He’s a fantastic teacher, but it’s his influence outside the classroom that will always stay with me. He pushed me to apply the concepts we learned in class to the real world and to our other interests. That’s why I started my little side project as a sports data nerd…and that’s how I landed my next job, crunching numbers for the New York Yankees.
I couldn’t get up here and deliver this speech without taking a minute to talk about Coach Smith. Coach S is a legend around here – you all know that. He’s a great coach…but many of you don’t know that he’s also a teacher. Coach S runs a first aid program that many of us have been through, and spends a lot of his free time as an EMT.
Hey Mr. Smith – I know you told me not to mention you, but I have to. You’re the reason so many of us actually play instruments we love. You made music class a rite of passage, a fun way to learn, and for some of us – a pathway to professional music careers.
I’d like to say thanks to Mr. Smith. Most of you know him as our chemistry teacher – famous for his high standards and tough grading. But I know him as something else entirely. You see, I’ve never taken any chemistry classes….instead, I know Mr. Smith through the comedy club in [CITY]. He helped me develop a dumb little hobby – telling goofy jokes – into a real career as a stand up comic.
ANECDOTES AND STORIES:
The best way to keep things light and engaging is to tell stories
Hey Seniors….remember how someone kept letting farm animals loose in the cafeteria every April 1st? Yeah, I’m not saying it was me…..but the mastermind sounds like a good-looking genius with a fantastic personality. Also, never let a farm animal ride shotgun in your car…
Hey Professor Smith….remember the first class you taught us during freshman year? Sure you do! For anyone here wondering why a professor could possibly remember day one of a 101 class that he’s taught for 20 years…..it’s because that was the day I set fire to his lab coat, my lab partner’s hair, and the ceiling – accidentally, of course. When I went back earlier this year to tell Professor Smith that I’m staying on to do my master’s in Chemistry, he congratulated me and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to be an accountant instead?”.
Most of us signed up for classes and student clubs based on research, advice, and generally having a plan. I’ll be honest – I freaked out on registration day. I was overwhelmed with all the choices and I just stayed in my room. My roommate tried to reason with me…but when that didn’t work, he actually went and registered for me. I owe him a lot for doing that – but did he have to sign me up for Advanced Calculus??
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE:
Graduations are about hope and possibility, so you should leave people looking forward to the future.
No matter what’s next for you, we’ve all made life-long friends here. As we go down our different paths from here, we’ll always be able to come back to this group.
Graduation can be a scary time. The decisions we’re making in the next few weeks and months will affect the rest of our lives. No pressure, right?!
If I hear “So, what’s next?” one more, I’ll probably scream. People all around you will be throwing all sorts of advice at you….some will tell you what career to choose, when to start a family, and all sorts of things that they have no business talking about. We’re young and we’re about to get the chance to shape our lives – so let’s do it our way.
Most of us look at graduation as a big ending. We’ve “completed” something big, right? Well, I think it’s more like a starting point. All these accomplishments and accolades are great, but over the next few months we’ll be starting fresh.
Someone’s probably already said it (really well!)
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson
“It ain’t about how hard you hit: it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” – Malcolm X
“If you want special results, you have to feel special things and do special things together. You can speak about spirit, or you can live it.” – Jurgen Klopp
“Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path – unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then by all means you should follow that.” — Ellen DeGeneres
“If you can’t blow them away with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit”
“Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Fifty percent of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class. Hope your surgery went well!” – Simone Elkeles
“Your families are extremely proud of you. You can’t imagine the sense of relief they are experiencing. This would be a most opportune time to ask for money.” — Gary Bolding
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Rob Siltanen
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy
“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.” – Denis Waitley
“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” – Roy T. Bennett
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
“Now that you’ve graduated, just remember: bosses don’t usually accept notes from your mother.” — Melanie Green
“Just do it.” — Nike
“Impossible is nothing” — Adidas
General advice for graduation speeches:
It’s not only about you. You’ve got to connect with the audience, so make your speech relevant for everyone.
Don’t just list things. Nobody really wants to hear you only thank a bunch of people or just list a lot of accomplishments. Get up there and tell a story with a purpose.
Rehearse the speech as much as possible. A great speech is just as much about delivery as content – so get in front of a mirror or film yourself and work on your tone, flow, and body language.
Ask someone to help you rehearse. Practicing on your own is a good start, but it’s not the same as having real live feedback. Are your jokes landing? Is what you’re doing actually working? Only another person can tell you.
Speak slowly. Take deliberate pauses in the right places and eliminate any filler words like uh, erm, and ah.
When in doubt….don’t try to reach for jokes. Instead, speak from the heart. (I got that from this Wedding Crashers scene, and it’s totally true).
Do not take this as a chance to call someone out or say “I told you so”. Graduations are celebrations – so don’t try and bring anyone down. It’ll just make everyone uncomfortable and you’ll lose the audience.
Don’t use needlessly big words or flowery language. It’s a speech, after all, so write it like you’d say it. Try speaking out loud as you write – it’ll keep things
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