Writing a Memorable Graduation Speech

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Congratulations! You’ve been named valedictorian of your 2009 high school graduation class. Take a little time to celebrate this honor with family and friends. Then get busy. You have a graduation speech to write.

Before you put pencil to paper (or fingers to computer key board), here are a few tips to help you write a memorable speech.

Choose an appropriate theme. Choose a theme that is relevant to the occasion. For example, you might want to talk about what your school means to you, what you learned outside the classroom that will help to shape you life going forward, the importance of education, or any number of topics.

Use anecdotes and reminisce with your audience. Graduation is about looking back as well as looking forward, so color your speech with anecdotes about your school, your classmates, and your teachers. Reminisce a little with your audience by talking about important events during your high school years, dances and proms, fundraisers, plays, sports events, and so on. Bring up occurrences that are especially meaningful to your class, such as sports championships won or the loss of a student or teacher.

Use humor cautiously. If you use humor in your speech, be careful. Admittedly, a joke can be an effective icebreaker to open a speech. But, if poorly executed, it can leave the audience uncomfortable, which is not how you want to start your talk. Be sure any humor you use is appropriate and stay away from inside jokes that will be understood by only a few members of the audience.

Reference pop culture. Including references to pop culture (movies, music, books, personalities, etc.) can help to make you speech more personal and more accessible to your audience. However, don’t go overboard. This is one area where a little can be a lot.

Don’t be preachy. As a high school graduate, you are still somewhat naïve in the ways of the world, whether you know it or not, so don’t make your speech preachy or heavy on advice-giving.

Show appreciation. Say thank you to parents and teachers and express appreciation for their support and for the opportunities provided by your school.

Be inclusive. You are representing your entire class, not just Honor Society members or those in the drama club with you. Try to make your speech resonate with all your classmates, not just a few.

Limit the comments about yourself. We not I should take center stage in your speech.

Practice. Practice your speech, a lot. Rehearse it for family and friends so that you can get feedback from them, but remember, in the end, it is your speech and it should be your message that comes through. Practice out loud.

Be brief. Make your speech long enough to be interesting but not so long that you lose your audience to inattention and boredom. Know the time allotted for the speech and stay well within it.

Enjoy yourself. Once you’ve written and polished your speech and practiced it to the point that you can give it in your sleep, relax and let yourself enjoy the occasion and the much-deserved attention and recognition.


Maggie Vink, diylife.com, How to Write a Graduation Speech

Naomi Rockler-Gladen, collegeuniversity.com, How to Write a Graduation Speech, Memorable Commencement Speaking for High School and College Graduation

wHow Education Editor, ehow.com, How to Write a Graduation Speech