What makes a good commencement speech?

I’m being interviewed on Wed on NPR about commencement speeches.

Update: I was interviewed yesterday on NPR about this. You can listen here.

Commencement speeches are the ones given at graduations, usually in the summer and often outside, where the attention spans of young people are stretched to their limits.

Most of my advice about commencement speeches  is similar to advice I give about all speeches. But I wanted to ask all of you if you had particular thoughts on this.

The two most famous commencement speeches i can think of are wear more sunscreen (which never actually was a speech), and Steve Jobs at Stanford. And most lists of the best are done by people who already had considerable fame before they did the speech.


  • Do you remember your high school or college commencement speech?
  • If yes, what do you recall?
  • Looking back, is there anything you wish they had done differently?


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