Commencement speech

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Software methodologist Kent Beck giving a commencement speech
The University of New Hampshire commencement, at which George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke

A commencement speech or commencement address is a speech given to graduating students, generally at a university, generally in the United States, although the term is also used for secondary education institutions.

The "commencement" is a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are conferred upon graduating students. A commencement speech is typically given by a notable figure in the community, during the commencement exercise. The person giving such a speech is known as a commencement speaker. Very commonly, colleges or universities will invite politicians, important citizens, or other noted speakers to come and address the graduating class.

A commencement speech is less bound by the structure found in other forms of public address, like eulogies or wedding speeches. The speaker accordingly enjoys a unique freedom to express him or herself. Executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl writes

A commencement speech, simply, is an opportunity to share your experience, values and advice. The precise form is up to you. This affords the speaker a platform to say amazing, unlimited things.[1]

Why Is It Called Commencement? Why we call a graduation ceremony “commencement” when the event marks the end of college. “To commence” means “to begin,” not end, so it seems like an odd name for the ceremony. We call graduation ceremonies commencement because in the past they marked the beginning of a person’s career as a master of arts at the university—in other words, the beginning of a person’s career as a university teacher. Source: <>.

Some notable commencement speeches[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trendl, Anthony. "What Makes a Commencement Speech?".
  2. ^ a b "Top 10 Commencement Speeches". Time magazine. Retrieved April 9, 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |magazine= (help)
  3. ^ "The 10 Best Graduation Speeches of All Time: Winston Churchill, Former UK PM". CNBC. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  4. ^ "Student Speech". Wellesley College. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  5. ^ Feynman, Richard P. (June 1974). "Cargo Cult Science" (PDF). California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  6. ^ "'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says". Stanford Report. June 14, 2005. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  7. ^ Levine, Sam (2016-05-20). "David Foster Wallace's Famous Commencement Speech Almost Didn't Happen". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  8. ^ J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ The Obama White House (7 May 2016). "President Obama Delivers the Commencement Address at Howard University". Retrieved 18 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ "Steven Spielberg Selected as 2016 Commencement Speaker - News - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Harvard Live - Harvard University". Harvard University. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  12. ^ Staff, Entrepreneur (23 May 2016). "Peter Thiel Commencement Speech, Hamilton College, May 2016 (Transcript)". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  13. ^ Holly Foster (May 22, 2016). "PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel Urges Class of 2016 to "Do What Hasn't Been Done"". Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  14. ^ University of Michigan (2 May 2016). "Michael Bloomberg's 2016 Commencement Speech - University of Michigan". Retrieved 18 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  15. ^[dead link]
  16. ^ Duke University (15 May 2016). "Coach Mike Krzyzewski's 2016 Commencement Speech at Duke University". Retrieved 18 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ "Hillsdale College's 164th Commencement Ceremony". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Trump at Liberty University commencement: 'In America, we don't worship government; we worship God'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  19. ^ Bidgood, Jess; Seelye, Katharine Q. (2017-05-26). "At Wellesley, Hillary Clinton Criticizes Trump and Invokes Nixon Resignation". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-13.
  20. ^ Diamond, Anna. "What Hillary Clinton Said to the Wellesley Class of 2017". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-06-13.
  21. ^ "Commencement Address". Wellesley College. Retrieved 2017-06-13.

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