欢迎来到VOA在线收网 www.voa365.com
当前位置:VOA NEWS > VOA慢速英语 > 教育报道 >

What Makes a Great College Graduation Speech?

2017-05-14 21:20来源:未知


Dilip Abayasekara, former president of Toastmasters International

Imagine it is a beautiful spring day in the month of May or early June.


You are sitting among a crowd of people at a large theater or stadium. Around you are hundreds of young people. They are wearing long robes over normal clothing and hats in the shape of a square.


Maybe some of your friends or family members are sitting behind you. Then imagine you turn around to look at them. Some are happy, while others start to cry.


Why? You just completed a two- or four-year degree program at a college or university, and are now attending a graduation ceremony. This event, also called commencement, is where schools recognize the students who successfully completed their degree programs.


Suddenly, a person you may have seen on television stands up, walks in front of the crowd, and starts to say something like this:


"Graduates, faculty, parents … and old people that just come to these things, good morning and congratulations to the Dartmouth class of 2011."


They are giving a speech that marks how important this special event is to the graduating students and their loved ones.


Dilip Abayasekara is a former president of an organization called Toastmasters International. Toastmasters operates in about 145 different countries. It helps to train people in public speaking.


Abayasekara says speeches have been a big part of graduations in the United States and other countries for about 100 years or more. He adds that colleges and universities carefully choose who will give a commencement speech. Schools often choose people who are famous or successful in fields like politics, business or the performing arts. They do so in order to make the ceremony a final lesson for the students in addition to a celebration.


Abayasekara spoke to VOA Learning English.


"Perhaps the public at large will get a glimpse into the forces that shaped this person. And they will also get a glimpse into what kind of message this person wants to leave in the hearts of the next generation of leaders."


How to make a speech memorable


Many famous people have given speeches at graduation ceremonies over the years. In 2016, some of the most well-known speakers were film director Steven Spielberg and businessman Peter Theil.


Most commencement speakers offer advice, such as believing in oneself or never giving up when life becomes difficult. But what makes a speech truly great? What are the qualities in them that graduates will remember for the rest of their lives?


John Gabrieli is a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studies memory. Gabrieli says memories are created from events when a person experiences a strong emotional reaction. Graduation ceremonies often fill people with many emotions, including happiness and feelings of success.


Yet while Gabrieli has heard many commencement speeches in his life, he admits he cannot remember any of them that well. Many speeches are similar, often just celebrating the students and thanking the people who have supported them. This does not make for strong memories, he says.


"What we remember, besides emotion, is what is unexpected. So daily expected things we forget very quickly … So a commencement speaker has a challenge, if it’s going to be memorable, to say something unexpected."


Gabrieli notes truly memorable commencement speakers either change the way the speech is given or make challenging, unpredictable claims.


Take Michelle Obama, for example. She spoke at a graduation ceremony at the City College of New York in 2016, while her husband was still president. She told the graduates that every day she “wake[s] up in a house that was built by slaves.” She was talking about the White House.


Here is another example. Actress Rita Moreno spoke at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. During her speech to the graduates, she began speaking this way.


"I agreed to speak at this commencement and chose to bring the instrument. My choice: a voice, to articulate, to lay it straight. For on this date, my fate is to relate with, rhythm and passion, that you have a mission."


However, MIT’s John Gabrieli warns speakers their job is to honor and prepare the students as they leave the school. An unexpected speech may make the attendees unhappy.


Geoffrey Cowan adds there are other ways a commencement speech can fail. Cowan is a professor of communications at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He was also once the director of VOA. He says speakers often forget public speaking is all about building a connection between them and the people in the audience.


"The worst thing to do is to talk down to your audience, and there’s often a tendency to do that, or to talk in a mechanical way. And the other thing that’s terrible … is when people lose their place in a speech, and it becomes incoherent."


What people can learn from a great speech


Cowan thinks the best commencement speeches center the audience’s attention on a single idea. Often this can come from a personal story from the speaker’s own life. For example, businessman Steve Jobs told Stanford University graduates in 2005 about how he left college without completing a degree program. Jobs also spoke about learning he was dying of cancer and how that changed his ideas about the world.


Cowan says the best speeches also present college graduates with a challenge. For example, in 2008 writer J.K. Rowling asked graduates at Harvard University not to be afraid of failure, but to learn from it. And in 2005, writer David Foster Wallace asked graduates at Kenyon College to try and understand and value other people’s opinions.


If a commencement speech is truly great and memorable, it will not only serve to inform and motivate the graduates, says Cristina Negrut. Negrut operates a website called Graduation Wisdom. Since 2006, she has used her website to gather the best commencement speeches as well as advice on how to write them. She says that before the internet, many of these speeches could easily disappear with the graduate’s memories.


"Now, with social media, the speaker … ends up giving the speech not just to the university and the audience they have in the stadium, but to the world."


Negrut says these speeches can be an important source of knowledge. That is why the best ones are recorded and shared long after the ceremonies have ended.

Words in This Story



stadiumn. a very large usually roofless building that has a large open area surrounded by many rows of seats and that is used for sports events, or concerts


robe(s) – n. a long, loose piece of clothing that is worn on top of other clothes to show that someone has a high rank or an important job


facultyn. the group of teachers in a school or college


glimpsen. a brief or quick view or look


articulatev. to express something, such as an idea, in words


faten. the things that will happen to a person or thing


rhythmn. a regular, repeated pattern of sounds or movements


passionn. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something


missionn. a task or job that someone is given to do


tendencyn. a way of behaving or proceeding that is developing and becoming more common


incoherentadj. not easy to understand


  1. 网传日月光Q4产能利用率降至70%
  2. 新型存储器已经开始增长,到20
  3. 市场人士透露:联发科在汽车芯片
  4. 【VOA在线闲聊】三星收购Arm会步英
  5. Nikola召回迄今为止生产的93辆Nik
  6. 蚂蚁数科两项区块链专利完成一对
  7. 蔚来申请注册“NIO CERTIFIED 蔚来官
  8. 获小米超千万投资 改装车公司工
  9. 法拉第未来首款电动汽车FF 91再次
  10. 消息称LG显示计划明年生产920万块
  11. 宝马面向欧洲市场推出最小的跨界
  12. 美国副总统哈里斯承诺就电动汽车
  13. 知情人士透露称马斯克和推特CE
  14. 因苹果缩减订单 台积电或修改明
  15. LG推出一项新技术,以开放局域网
  16. 小米13正式上线:骁龙8Gen2发布1
  17. 米家3 KG迷你洗衣机售价699元
  18. 苹果公司官方非常兴奋:印度将生
  19. 中国广电在全国31个省区开通广电
  20. 华为 Mate 50 Pro国外上市:售价远高
  21. 特斯拉柏林超级工厂回收工厂发生
  22. 华为 Mate 50原价4999
  23. iPhone 14销售比上一代下降了11%
  24. 2021至2025中国台湾将投350亿元新台
  25. 华为Mate50Pro预定5 G芯片,苹果公司
  26. 锐龙7000核显性能实测 单核及多核
  27. 索尼PS5最新更新:6 nm制程功率与
  28. 华为会议马上就要开始了!一种全
  29. 小米再次成为了冠军!该系列产品
  30. 还能吸收病毒?!戴森首个产品也
  31. 小米又推出了一款新产品,售价
  32. Imagination携手百度飞桨创建Model
  33. 奔驰要不要再加价?2024将发布
  34. TikTok在英国或被罚款2900万美元 被
  35. iPhone15PM改用 ULTRA:笔记本和 iPa
  36. 因库存不断提升存储芯片持续降价
  37. 预计小米Civi2将推出五款新产品
  38. 可靠商务桌面电脑推荐:联想M4
  39. 受飓风影响:NASA撤回阿尔忒弥斯
  40. 《三体》影迷们疯狂了!
  41. 4090设计实在是太离谱了!
  42. Meta试图Facebook和Instagram账户添加到
  43. 苹果公司在技术上遭受重大挫折,
  44. 我国成功发射遥感三十六号卫星,
  45. 骁龙8Gen2+120 W快速充电!小米13系
  46. 屏幕下手机价格大跌,灵动岛安卓
  47. 亚马逊宣布下月举办新会员促销活
  48. 酷睿i9-13900K预告片,5.8 GHz稳定!
  49. 美国流媒体巨头Netflix宣布在芬兰
  50. 外科手术机器人 商业化将加快世