In her commencement speech to Harvard on June 5, J.K. Rowling said that she could not remember anything about the commencement speech when she graduated from college. She said that eased her anxiety when writing her speech knowing that ultimately most students would forget all of it. You can read the text of her speech by clicking here. To watch the video, click here.
My old friends and I have been attending a lot of college graduations lately and comparing notes. I read the Rowling speech and it is funny and poignant and inspiring. For other commencement speakers, you can search by college or university name or speaker name at the Chronicle of Higher Education website, click here. The speaker at my daughter's graduation declined to speak due to the rain. She will remain nameless here. Maybe it was just as well because looking at a sea of umbrellas in a football stadium may have been more memorable than most speeches. When I graduated a long, long time ago in a football stadium far, far away, the university I attended had a policy not to have commencement speakers. The Dean, President, Chancellor or whatever the head honcho was called, spoke. I can't remember what he said or his name. Sorry Alma Mater. I remember there were snow flurries - in May! I remember the veterinary students had stuffed animals pinned to their caps and I was envious of that. I remember where we went to dinner and who my friends were and that the weather was sunny, barring those few flurries... but the speech? I imagine I was exorted to go forth and do good, that much was expected of people who had received such a great education, and so on.
If you just can't get enough of speeches, check out The Greatest Speeches of All Time, DVD 808.85 GRE. 68 minutes of inspiring rhetoric from people who changed history. If you have to write a speech, BHPL has books about public speaking in 808.85. You don't have to picture your audience in their skivvies, just remember they want you to hurry up so they can go eat and they won't remember much anyway. Liberating, isn't it?