After going through yet another graduation on Friday, my sister’s high school graduation, I have come to the realization that commencement speeches from people in power such as principals or college presidents have lost their effectiveness.
First off, they always seem to feature the same clichés. As many people who have listened to them before will know, there is always the mention that your next step lies outside the school walls, but that you must brave the cruel “real world”. I’ve heard this many times in multiple graduation speeches, and as a person who lives in the “real world” I have seen some cruelty. But I believe we all have a support base that helps us get through everything. This reminder is also pretty useless because by the time that the people reach the stage in their lives, they have already been entrenched in the “real world” and do not need to be reminded that they will have to earn everything they want.
Cliché number two is that they always seem to feature some form of bad puns. I’ve heard them used throughout many speeches, the ones that make you groan. I believe this is the lazy man or woman’s way of engaging the audience. Sure they will always get you a laugh, but the majority of the time it is more of a pity laugh. I am one person who believes that if you are truly a humorous person, the jokes will come naturally. You do not need to plan them.
The speeches are also always beating the kids over the heads with the fact that their education or program has given them ‘the skills they need to succeed in their future career’. Uh, thanks for that reminder, but would I be in school or the program if I thought otherwise? The school or institution does not need to give itself credit, because people should already know what they have taken out of it. Schools seem to always feel the need to mention themselves when it is truly unnecessary.
What may actually be worse than those previous points is that I have a suspicion that many of these speeches are recycled from previous years. If you use the same speech for the class of 2014 and the class of 2015, what message are you really sending? That this group of individuals is no more special than the ones that came before it?
For ceremonies that seem to drag on for 3 hours or more, these types of speeches have become a bit of a bore. For graduating students, they have to wait and sit in gowns that tend to get a bit warm. For parents or other family members, they are usually packed in and are just waiting to see their graduate take the stage.
I am not saying that these speeches should end, but that people addressing the crowd need to get more creative with these speeches. If you are going to joke, make sure it is a spur of the moment thing and not you reading it off a piece of paper. Add some energy, make it interesting. I think that the people making these speeches should do some research on past graduation speeches and remove all of the parts that have been overused in the past from their speech.
The focus, I believe, should be put on raw emotion when addressing a graduating class, not reserved sentiment.
This is because if you want to send the right message to a class moving up the ladder of life, then you better make sure the speech is not dry.
For those who have graduated from any level of schooling, I say congratulations and good luck. And if I can be forgiven for using one grad speech cliché to wrap this up, it’s “the best is yet to come.”
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Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy