Grad speeches: The bad, the horrendous and the inspired

Five lessons from this year’s batch of commencement speeches.

Five lessons from this year’s batch of commencement speeches

Commencement season has largely come and gone at universities and colleges around the nation. And, once again, we’re left with the remains of speeches that ran the gamut from wonderful (thank you, Tom Brokaw.) to horrendous (think Ellen DeGeneres).

So, here’s a quick, non-scientific roundup of 2009 commencement speeches. By nonscientific I mean that these are the ones that popped up first on a Google search. (No Obama speech here — I’ve left that to others.)

Possibly the biggest surprise is that most of these were pretty bad. If this year’s lot is typical, it’s no wonder why so few people remember their commencement speakers. Many of these speeches had potential but then ran into a variety of self-made traps. Overall, they provide us with a few key lessons.

First lesson: It’s not about you, it’s about the graduates.

Several speeches fell into this trap. For whatever reason, speakers feel that if they’re asked to speak, their life stories must be interesting to the graduates. Well, probably not. A commencement speaker’s first rule is to remember that it’s a day when the graduates are properly the center of attention.

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