A hint for graduation speakers

A hint for graduation speakers: With thousands of graduation speeches being made, you’d think there would be new ones to point to. But, like having the greatest TV commercial of all time (and that other stuff with computers and animation), apparently Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford last year is going to be the standard-setting speech of the ages. Sure, comedians can get more laughs and a speech never made by Kurt Vonnegut is among the best-known Internet-spread hoaxes, but Jobs’ speech is the one I’d use as the model if I were ever asked to speak at a commencement.

Why? Because he starts this way: “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

If I were in charge of recruiting commencement speakers, I would require them to start their speeches that way: “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

I would say to them: No quotes (even though Jobs has a few). No platitudes. No truisms. No poems. No “top ten lists.” No jokes. Just: “Tell three stories from your life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

Why this topic is on my mind? I get to listen to a few commencement speeches in the coming days. At one of those graduations, a beautiful young woman is wearing a cap and gown who plays the starring role in lots of stories from my life.

  • bhudgins

    A friend’s son just graduated from UVA. My friend said Tom Wolfe’s valedectory service speech was awful, uninspired, insipid and largely lifted from his latest book. Newly elected Gov. Tim Kaine however gave a lively, witty and engaging commencement address, which from the description resembled Jobs’ approach. (I heard former Va. Gov. Mark Warner speak at a graduation a couple years ago, and he told a few stories from his life, too. He was great, and I have this fantasy about blogging about his presidential campaign from the trail.)