Writing a valedictorian speech is an honorable task and challenging as well. After all, your task as a class valedictorian is to give a farewell speech to your high school, college, or university on behalf of all the other fellow students.
In your valedictory speech, you want to summarize some key points of your journey and express gratitude to your family, friends, high school or faculty members, and others. You also want to add some future-related elements.
So, yes, writing and giving a valedictory graduation speech is anything but simple! However, there’s no need to start hyperventilating because today we’ll go through all the key steps together.
We’ll learn how to write a valedictorian speech that is memorable, inspiring, and persuasive. Furthermore, we’ll look at a few valedictorian speech examples that will help you come up with your own valedictorian speech ideas.
I hope you’re ready! ?
How To Write A Valedictorian Speech
When you start thinking of writing a commencement speech, I bet thousands of ideas start running through your head.
You can’t help yourself but think of the following and similar questions: Should I add some inspirational quotes to my speech? How should I greet them?
Don’t stress, here are the most important elements of a good valedictorian speech that you should incorporate into yours as well:
1. Establish a personal theme
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but every good speech has a personal theme. This doesn’t mean you should talk about your childhood and retell every single detail of your life. ?
What makes valedictorian speeches (and speeches in general) so memorable is their personal approach to a certain extent.
For example, you can mention some people at school who inspired you most or list a few important changes that happened to you when you were a student.
These are the things the crowd will memorize because it adds that special touch to your speech.
2. Create an outline
Yup! One simply cannot write a speech before making an outline. Period. Once you find your personal theme (read: big theme), then it’s time to divide it into sections (read: subthemes).
Basically, your outline should consist of the following parts:
• Introductory (greeting) part.
• Body of the valedictorian speech (consists of many paragraphs and subthemes).
• Conclusion (congratulating) part.
Writing an outline will also help you decide whether you should cut some of the parts or add a few new lines.
3. Consult with other students
Remember that delivering the commencement address is not only about your own experience as a student. That’s why you should consult with other students to hear their perspectives as well.
Write down their ideas and think about ways to incorporate them into your speech. This is especially helpful if you lack ideas of your own.
Let your speech represent the voices of other students as well because that will make it more valuable. You don’t necessarily have to mention their name or cite them but simply summarize their main idea so that it matches your speech.
4. Accentuate the highlights of the previous years
Talk about how things have changed over the past high school years or college years. Accentuate some main events during that period, the challenges you had to overcome, and the lessons you’ve learned.
You don’t need to go into details – keep it simple and to the point. Again, don’t mention anything that doesn’t match your main topic.
5. Talk about the future
After talking about the past, talk about the future and the challenges of the real world. Think of what will happen after your graduation day.
It’s true that you can’t be precise when it comes to this because the future is unpredictable. However, you can mention it in a general sense.
You can, for example, talk about getting a job, going to college (if you’re a high school graduate), and similar.
6. Add some elements of humor
Laughter is the best ice breaker! Adding a few jokes will relax the crowd, and as a result, calm your nerves too. Also, your speech won’t be boring but it will have that catchy flow that is easy to follow.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to adding humorous elements to your speech:
• Add funny stories related to your school.
• Or look for some jokes online (but make sure that they are related to your speech).
• Don’t turn your speech into a stand-up comedy show (read: don’t overdo it with jokes).
• Make sure your jokes are appropriate.
And don’t forget to laugh along with others because, otherwise, it will become weird.
7. Express gratitude
Think of all the people to whom you are grateful. I bet these people are your parents, your friends, your partner, your classmates, teachers, and other high school or faculty members.
Don’t just say thank you without mentioning some key points that you’re thankful for. For example, you can thank them for their patience, guidance, understanding, and their helpful advice when you needed it most.
As always, let the gratitude come from the heart. Don’t make it look forced.
8. Inspire the crowd
Learning how to leave your audience inspired is another important part of your speech. I’m sure your personal theme will inspire them but there are other ways to boost that feeling.
One of the easiest ways to inspire the crowd is by adding some inspirational quotes to your speech. Here are some great examples:
• “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
• “Your life is your adventure. And the adventure ahead of you is a journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” – Kerry Washington
• “Learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are. And then figure out the next right move. And the key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional G.P.S. that can tell you which way to go.” – Oprah
• “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs
9. Keep it short
When it comes to speech writing, one important rule is to keep it short. You don’t want the audience to start snoring in the middle of the speech, right? ?
You want to make sure that your speech is easy to follow, and that it contains both educational and comic relief elements. The best thing to do is to talk to your teachers or principal about the approximate allowed time for your speech.
If they don’t have established rules for your valedictorian speech, then make it last 5 to 10 minutes. One to two double-spaced pages should be enough.
10. Practice your speech but don’t memorize it
Once you write it, you should practice your speech as much as you can (especially if you fear public speaking). The more you practice, the more you’ll be confident to give a valedictorian speech on graduation day.
But there’s one thing you SHOULDN’T DO, and that is memorizing your speech.
Here’s a great explanation for that by Harvard Business Review: “When you memorize something, you are still reading — now with the script in your head instead of in your hands — and the slightest memory failure can cause you to lose your place and throw you off.”
In a nutshell, memorizing provides a false sense of security. A better alternative would be creating notes that will serve as reminders if you happen to forget your speech.
11. Read other graduation speeches (see below)
As always, when we do something new, the easiest way to start doing it is by checking examples. Check the speeches of other students with the highest grades aka class valedictorians.
These speeches can serve as imaginary templates for writing your own. Below you’ll find some worthy examples.
Valedictorian Speech Examples
If you’re looking for high school graduation speech or college graduation speech examples, you’ll find the best below.
These valedictorian speech examples are truly magnificent, memorable, and to the point. I also highly recommend that you read the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs.
High School Valedictorian Speech Example
• Vanier College
• Graduation Ceremony 2012
• Written By Michael Vasili Richardson, Health Sciences:
“Good evening parents, friends, teachers, mentors, administrators, and of course, the Graduating class of 2012.
Today, we become Vanier graduates. The home of the cheetahs is now also the home of tomorrow’s doctors and lawyers, teachers and psychologists, musicians and engineers, architects and nurses. No matter what our reasons were for choosing Vanier so very few years ago, what is important now is that we are all here tonight to celebrate our triumphs, our achievements, our victories both individually and as a school, and the journey on which we have all embarked toward our future destinations.
Each of us has had our own unique experiences at Vanier; a combination of good times and bad times, times of laughter and of joy, times of school spirit, and of course, times of last-minute studying for that exam that we forgot was taking place tomorrow morning. (Good thing for Starbucks!)
Graduation marks the end of yet another extraordinary chapter in our lives. With this chapter closed, I am certain that many of us are already anxious about starting the next one because, unlike an English book, we cannot skip through the pages of life to see how long the next chapter is going to be. We all have our own book of life that has not yet been written and every day that passes, is another page we write in ourselves. Luckily, as Vanier graduates, we have been given all of the paper and ink we need to write our own stories. And with the love and support of our families, friends, and fellow graduates, our stories will become best sellers.
One thing that I will reflect upon as I throw my graduation cap in the air is the way that Vanier has been my home away from home for the past few years. As one of our generation’s most inspirational motion pictures said, coming into Vanier, I felt like a one-man wolf pack. In fact, I’m sure many of us felt exactly the same way. During our time at Vanier, we have all met so many new people, made lasting friendships, lived through lifelong memories, and added many new members to our wolf packs. And I’m sure you can agree that waking up on Monday morning was never an easy task, but knowing that the rest of our pack was there made it all a little easier. So, as we all begin writing our next chapter, let us all remember that sense of family that helped us get through Monday morning classes, or better yet, how our friends were our support system Michael Vasili Richardson Health Sciences, Graduation 2012 we needed as we made complete fools of ourselves during UB karaoke. Just as important, let us all remember how our friends were always there with us to savor those wonderful, gourmet meals… at Decarie Hot Dog. All this to say, let us embrace the life lessons that we have learned in CEGEP that have prepared us for the bigger and better things that we will soon explore.
Ever since we were children, we have been told that we needed to start planning for “the future”. My grandfather, for example, would always tell me that if I planted a seed today, I would be able to eat the fruit tomorrow. One thing I realized at CEGEP is that I don’t think my future will suddenly begin one day down the road; in fact, I think my future has already begun. Every lesson I learn today can be applied tomorrow, and this is the lesson I would like to share with all of you. Treat every day as a new learning experience, and another opportunity to grow as an individual.
As I sat in front of my laptop with a lukewarm cup of coffee finalizing this address, I decided that I wanted to leave you all with one final thought. No matter what our futures may hold, there will be times in our lives where self-doubt will stand in the way of an open door. When this happens, let us all remember the following: Albert Einstein did not speak until the age of 4, and was originally told he would never amount to anything. Beethoven was told by his music teacher that he was hopeless as a composer. Michael Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team. Oprah Winfrey struggled as a small-town journalist, and Abraham Lincoln was defeated in eight presidential elections before becoming the most inspirational president in U.S. history. Fellow graduates, if there is one thing that Vanier has taught me, it is to never let anyone tell you that you can’t.
Thank you family and friends for being with us tonight, and throughout our own lives. More specifically, thank you parents for being our coaches; thank you friends for being our teammates; and thank you teachers and administrators for being our mentors. Once again, congratulations to the Vanier graduating class of 2012! Let us all leave this ceremony tonight ready to show the world that Vanier graduates (not John Abbott or Dawson…) will stop at nothing to achieve greatness.”
College Valedictorian Speech Example
AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT THIS SPEECH (as delivered by USA Today): “Bonker is affected by non speaking autism, so she communicates by typing. At the Rollins’ graduation ceremony in Florida on May 8, she used a text-to-speech computer program to deliver her address – where she also urged her fellow graduates to remember that, like the late Rollins alum Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame did, ‘Life is for service.’“
• Rollins College
• Graduation Ceremony 2022
• Written by Elizabeth Bonker, Liberal Arts:
“Greetings to my fellow members of the elated class of 2022 and to the relieved parents, cheering siblings, and dear friends who supported us. Salutations to the caring faculty, administrators, and staff who fed our brains and nurtured our souls. I would also like to thank my fellow valedictorians—Emily Curran ’22, Sofia Frasz ’22, Charlie Mellin ’22, and Jessika Linnemeyer ’22—for giving me the honor of addressing you.
Rollins College class of 2022, today we celebrate our shared achievements. I know something about shared achievements because I am affected by a form of autism that doesn’t allow me to speak. My neuromotor issues also prevent me from tying my shoes or buttoning a shirt without assistance. I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard. I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero Helen Keller.
My situation may be extreme, but I believe Rollins has shown all of us how sharing gives meaning to life.
During my freshman year, I remember hearing a story about our favorite alumnus, Mister Rogers. When he died, a handwritten note was found in his wallet. It said, “Life is for service”. You have probably seen it on the plaque by Strong Hall. Life is for service. So simple, yet, so profound.
Classmates, you have shared your passion for service within our community. Our friends in the sororities and fraternities raise money for so many worthy causes. Our friends at Pinehurst weave blankets for the homeless. The examples are too numerous to list. Rollins has instilled in all of us that service to others gives meaning to our own lives and to those we serve.
Viktor Frankl wrote about the power of sharing in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. While suffering in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, he noted how, despite the horror, there were prisoners who shared their last crust of bread. He writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
We all have been given so much, including the freedom to choose our own way. Personally, I have struggled my whole life with not being heard or accepted. A story on the front page of our local newspaper reported how the principal at my high school told a staff member, “The retard can’t be valedictorian”.
Yet, today, here I stand. Each day, I choose to celebrate small victories, and today, I am celebrating a big victory with all of you.
The freedom to choose our own way is our fundamental human right, and it is a right worth defending, not just for us, but for every human being.
I want to publicly thank Rollins College for taking a chance on me. For caring about every student. For being a place where kindness lives.
Dear classmates, today we commence together. But from here, we will choose our own ways. For me, I have a dream. Yes, just like Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream: communication for all. There are 31 million non-speakers with autism in the world who are locked in a silent cage. My life will be dedicated to relieving them from suffering in silence and to giving them voices to choose their own way.
What is your dream? How will you use your Rollins education to fulfill your mission? How will you rise up to meet the unprecedented challenges of our time?
Whatever our life choices, each and every one of us can live a life of service—to our families, to our communities, and to the world. And the world can’t wait to see our light shine.
So, my call to action today is simple. Tear off a small piece from your commencement program and write “Life is for service” on it. Yes. We gave you the pens to really do it. Let’s start a new tradition. Take a photo and post it on social media. Then put it in your wallet or some other safe place, just as Mr. Rogers did. And when we see each other at our reunions, we can talk about how our commencement notes reminded us to serve others.
We are all called to serve, as an everyday act of humility, as a habit of mind. To see the worth in every person we serve. To strive to follow the example of those who chose to share their last crust of bread. For to whom much is given, much is expected.
God gave you a voice. Use it. And no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me. Because if you can see the worth in me, then you can see the worth in everyone you meet.
My fellow classmates, I leave you today with a quote from Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi encryption code to help win World War II. “Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
Be those people. Be the light! Fiat lux. Thank you.”
What Is The Main Point Of A Valedictorian Speech?
The main point of a valedictorian speech is to summarize the key elements in a farewell tone and to inspire the members of a graduating class for a new life adventure and its challenges.
Your speech should capture and keep the audience’s attention, and evoke in them a feeling of “sending off” and preparing for a new stage of life.
It should also make them laugh a few times because a memorable speech is the one that touches the audience and has that catchy and inspiring undertone.
Do you think you can make it? I believe you can. Good luck and congrats!