Graduation Speeches

Graduation Speeches May 26, 2024

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” –President Abraham Lincoln from the Gettysburg Address.

This is the attitude everyone should hold if asked to give a speech at the end of a commencement.   When someone says something that is memorable, skads of internet ink gets spilt taking the offending person to the woodshed.   I won’t be doing that here, it’s been overdone.  What I will do, is counsel aspiring graduation speakers.

Given that I have been going to graduations since 2012, almost every year, whether college or high school, and an occasional grad school and middle school thrown in there, (with the exception of 2020), I have tips to offer to those who get tapped for this sort of honor.


Be humble, be brief, and recognize that if you do it right, it’s rather like a homily.   People listening might find something to keep, but most will be thinking about getting to shake hands, get their diploma and going out to celebrate.  Your job is to inform and entertain, not convince.

While at graduation, one dean tried to convey a novel concept, “Don’t be afraid to fail spectacularly.”  and it’s a good way to think about life, and about thriving.  It might have been better if the Dean weren’t the head of engineering, because no one wants  a building or machine that fails spectacularly, but I loved that she said it.
Zootopia - Life's a Little More Complicated Quote - Imgflip
Try over and over again, Keep trying.  Figure out why whatever it is isn’t working, and adjust accordingly, but keep trying.   Life is the triumph of hope over experience that sometimes leads to unexpected triumph.  The keynote speaker said, “Choose tough” was his refrain and this is good too.

Another way to think of this is, “Embrace the cross.”  Your life will involve sufferings, challenges and difficulties.  It must, whether you are a person of means or not.   There will be sickness, health, good and bad and hard jobs, unforseen events and situations, disasters and flops and failures.  You will make and lose friends, your heart will be broken.  Life includes pain.

life is pain | LIFE IS PAIN, HIGHNESS; ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENTLY IS SELLING SOMETHING | image tagged in memes,funny,princess bride,the princess bride | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

And I think, the speakers were trying to emphasize to the audience, this reality of reality –which isn’t just uber eats and scrolling, and using online to communicate so as to avoid interacting.  Emotionally, these kids need to know, they’re going out into a world where they will have to talk to people they don’t know, and do the tough things.  Making it a habit, is a way of life.  Doing the tough things brings satisfaction even if you aren’t succeeding. I know, I’m a writer. You write because you love writing, and you hope, somehow you are successful through it.

Writing means sharing things that happen, sharing your struggle with life.  Recently, I don’t think I’ve been allowing myself to bleed onto the page, and passion without blood lacks energy, lacks import, and likely is little noted nor remembered and rightly so.

When I started writing, I shared stories of my children, but they’re teens and adults now, so their stories are not mine to tell.  It means I must be daring enough to be emotionally vulnerable about myself.  Children, even grown up ones, teach you about who you are by their memories, their values, and their understanding of what you do.  They challenge, they reveal, they know all your flaws and failings.  If you’ve forgotten, they’ll remind you.

Like my kids tell me they need to be somewhere fifteen minutes earlier than the actual time.  They’ve been late to things enough times to know, factor in Mom’s organizational speed.

There’s time and then there’s mom time.

Likewise, they know, if you want Mom to remember, show up with my planner and a pen. Watch me write it down.  My brain resides mostly found in a pen.  I don’t know why.

Next, check in with me to make sure I have not lost the planner in the meantime or forgotten to look at it.  Put it on the dry erase calendar too.  Mention it at dinner, but never in the car.  Mom does not process details in the car. She’s driving.   She’s probably just done with work and tired.  She may even respond, but she will not remember.    She will try because she chooses tough, but she will fail spectacularly.

See, I noted and remembered.

"Being a parent is the greatest blessing. As a Father of seven, I know that ..."

Blessed Then and Now
"I love your post! A lot of us focus on making it to the mountain ..."

Easter Monday, Now What

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!