A Comparison of Two Commencement Speeches

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Graduating from school is only one of the essential tools for a young person to have a successful life. A person endures many long years of schooling, and then the graduation day finally arrives. That special day is one of the most momentous days in a young student’s life. Happiness and sadness are the two emotions a person will feel on that special day. A student will experience happiness because of a significant milestone that was completed in the student’s life. The sad emotions will arise because of a terrifying new chapter in the book of life that is about to begin. Both Bradley Whitford and His Holiness the Dalai Lama give their commencement speeches by using humor to relax the mood of the crowd, making light of their fame, and giving the usual words of wisdom to the graduating class of students.

During Whitford’s speech, his opening remarks are humorous when he shouts to the audience “What’s up Mad City” (1). He uses this funny tactic to lighten the mood a bit, and he hopes it will make the words a little more memorable. Humor is particularly helpful in taking the mood down a notch, and to make the situation less formal. Whitford compares a commencement address to a funeral by saying “somebody once said it’s like being the body at a wake” (1). Adding a humorous touch is a way for him to get the graduates to at least retain some of the words coming out of his mouth. The Dalai Lama also incorporates humor when he says “even the sun is participating in this occasion and trying to show its glory and brilliance” (1). Obviously the sun has no choice but to be a willing participant of the ceremony, and students must also be a willing participant, or pretend to be listening to the speech. He also gets the students to take a look ...

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...tes understand that life is hard, and anything worth having does not come easy. Life is not handed to a person on a silver platter. Even a life of fame takes dedication and hard work. They wanted the students to feel like they were all on the same level of equality. The graduates will walk away from the ceremony hopefully retaining some of the words of the speakers. Having a famous speaker will at least make them remember who the speaker was. It does not matter who speaks at a graduating ceremony, but it does matter what words get spoken and remembered.

Works Cited

Whitford, Bradley. “Charge to Graduates.” UW-Madison.edu. News, U of Wisconsin-Madison,

17 May 2006. Web. 16 December 2008.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. “Commencement Address at Emory University.” emory.edu.

Emory University Commencement Archives, 11 May 1998. Web. 7 June 2007.

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