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Graduation and Insert Interesting Tidbit

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My fellow graduates, over the last four years here at [Insert name of school.], we have learned a lot. Mr. [Insert name of math teacher.] has taught us how to [Insert a complicated sounding math thing.]. Ms. [Insert name of English teacher.] taught us [Insert interesting tidbit from a favorite piece of literature.]. And Mr. [Insert name of widely known funny, popular teacher.] has taught us [Insert something odd that parents might be surprised to learn. For example maybe he taught you how to swear in Portuguese. Or maybe he taught you the best way to approach a girl at a dance. Make it funny but revealing about a beloved teacher.]. And all of this knowledge will no doubt be valuable to us as we go forward in life. But I think that the most important thing that we have learned over the last four years is [Insert major theme. Keep the theme simple. Good themes include “How to build relationships and rely on each other,” “How to Work Together as a Community,” “How to respect each other’s differences,” and “How much we need each other to succeed.”

Don’t worry if it’s corny. If it’s from the heart, go for it.]. Over the next few minutes, I’d like to talk about what we’ve learned the people we have to thank, and the people we have to remember. [Notice that you’re setting up a little three-part structure, letting your listeners know where the speech is going.] I told you that the most important thing that we learned was [Restate the theme.]. Let me give you just a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. [Give three or four quick and fun examples that bring in as many of your classmates’ names as possible. People love hearing their names. One of the examples might sound like this. “In ninth grade with our first pizza drive, we raised a lot of money for homecoming. It was a true team success. John Smith was our pizza baker. Cindy Jones showed us how to track and spend the money. Fred Williams played a critical role in getting people to turn out for the event with his creative posters. And Garth taught us that indeed one person can eat three entire pies in one sitting.” Give one longer example that is personal. For example, you might tell about how one of your teachers took an interest in your writing and encouraged you to submit your stories for publication.

Be sure to tell about how you thought the story was really stupid but your teacher disagreed. Be sure to thank the teacher by calling her out from the audience, asking her to stand and asking the audience to give her a round of applause. Finish the story by telling how this teacher taught you that “Nothing we accomplish is done alone. Rather, we need each other for support and coaching.”] Next, I’d like to take a moment on behalf of myself and my fellow graduates to thank the people that have brought us here. [Pick five or six people to thank. But don’t just give their names. Tell why you’re grateful to them. And in telling why, give anecdotal context. For example, “I’d like to thank my mother Wendy Johnson, who taught me that if I want to make it to the bus stop on time, I can’t spend 20 minutes checking Facebook.” Or “I’d like to thank my Math teacher, Ms. Jackson, who drilled into my head “Getting the right answer isn’t everything. How you get there is important. So show me your stinking work!”]

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to remember our classmates and teachers who are not with us today. [Here is where you mention anyone in your school community that died during your years in school. Once again, don’t just give their names. Give their names and then give a personal remembrance. “We all miss our friend Jenny Wilson. She was a wonderful sister and daughter, a great friend, and the best cheerleader on the squad. We also miss our teacher Mr. Carson. Mr. Carson didn’t allow us to show up late in his class. And we loved him for his humor. No one went through his class unchanged for the better.”] So now we’re graduates. And soon we’re going to be signing each others’ yearbooks and saying goodbye. There will be hugs and tears. We’ll do our best to stay in touch. But we’ll be living our lives and doing our best. As a final thought going forward, I’d like to leave you with a quote from [Insert name of someone you’d like to quote. The best people to quote are people that you’ve personally learned from, like your parents or grandparents. For example, “My grandfather told me that ‘A high school education is a great thing just as long as you’re willing to learn something after you graduate’.”] He said, [Insert final quote.] Thank you all.

Sample Graduation Speech (Valedictorian)

“Good evening honored guests, ladies and gentlemen and the Graduating Class of [year]. Robert Gallagher said that change is inevitable – except from a vending machine. As you stand on the brink of moving into life beyond [name of educational institution], change will be inevitable! It is inevitable and indeed gratifying to see that our Graduating Class of [year] matured and became skills proficient ready to tackle and further their life-long education. It is inevitable that structures and processes and relationships will change in their day-to-day lives. It is inevitable that they will face new challenges and it is inevitable that things may seem a little different in the year ahead. Yes, life is definitely going to become a little ‘shaken up and stirred'” Speech Example

“Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, teachers and administrators. We stand, gathered together to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2001 Class of Mattawan High School. To my fellow classmates, we’ve made it. We’ve finally made it. We are graduating. Congratulations. Congratulations not only to us graduates, but also congratulations to our teachers, parents, friends, families and administrators. Our success is your success, for you have given us the freedom to dare, the courage to excel and the belief that we can achieve our best. Together for the last time, we stand poised at the very edge of graduation, looking towards a bright future. Soon each of us will go forth, in his or her unique direction, seeking to make a mark upon the world. Our adulthood, so long anticipated, has now arrived. We have grown up. We must seize our future and taking it into our own hands, do with it what we will, striving towards excellence.” Excerpts from Valedictorian Speech, Mattawan H.S. 2001

Graduation Speeches Examples (Commencement)

“What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time” – John Kennedy, American University 1963

“Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary… Stay hungry, stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford 2005

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