The One-Minute Graduation Speech

I’ve given my share of commencement addresses, and I confess it’s a head-swelling experience to tell a captive crowd how you think they ought to live their lives while wearing an academic robe and a very silly hat. After all, didn’t they come primarily to hear what you have to say? Actually, they didn’t. In fact, graduation speakers are impediments to the real goal of the day – celebration, not reflection.

So what we need is a good one-minute graduation speech. Here’s my effort:

“Okay, folks, you got your degrees. Now you have to move toward other goals. If you don’t have any, borrow the goals of the person next to you. They’re probably as good as any, and besides, true success isn’t always getting what you think you want but learning to want what you get. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is prepare yourself to deal with unavoidable ups and downs and unexpected turns that are almost certain to scuttle the best-laid plans.

“Take control of your life by taking control of your attitudes. Remember, pain and disappointment are inevitable, but tough times are temporary. Persist with confidence that no negative emotion can withstand your will to be happy.

“Listen to both your heart and your head. Pursue your passions, but don’t confuse feelings with facts, fun with happiness, or pleasure with fulfillment. Live within your means. Don’t sacrifice a thousand tomorrows for a few todays.

“Be especially careful of choices that can jeopardize your health, reputation, or important relationships. Safeguard your integrity. You never know when you’ll need it.

“Finally, don’t settle for a little life. Fill it with purpose and meaning and people worthy of your love and respect.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 6

  1. Michael, I love your suggestion to become a one-minute speaker and tell the graduates what they ought to be doing in life rather than talking and talking and saying very little. You are so right ; it is a head-swelling experience. You really identified the occassion and its importance. it is a time for celebration and not reflection.
    I remember one of my very hard working Mangers at NCR – National Cash Register Co. – telling us on Mondays during the staff meeting to take only one minute to give the status of what we did during the whole week.
    I read almost thirty years ago, the comment about giving effective speech to the point while keeping in mind the occasion. The statement was:
    “If you want me to speak for three hours, tell me before the start of the speech; and if you want me to speak for ten minutes, give me three weeks advance notice”.
    Mohammad Yacoob

  2. I like your inspirational quotes and suggestions.
    We all need to un-learn from what we have been trained into living.
    Un-learning is a process that can happen if we start listening to heart than head…

  3. I look forward to hearing your commentaries on the radio everyday. You are wise beyond your years! Any grad who tskes your advice will be welcomed citizen of the world.

  4. I like the last line about little lives in particular. I used this quote from Jim Rohn in graduation speech I gave this year:
    Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.
    Thanks for your inspiration,

  5. Awesome ! I reach out to many students who are so locked up with negative
    and short sightedness and so it was a very tough life from the very start
    it was like talking to the walls …but when the great listeners put into action what
    I had shared it has become very light on my shoulders . Yes , it is so easy to quickly
    underestimate someone’s ability to do something especially with people who wore
    more bigger hats for graduation. But being locked up in a room full of test tubes and
    computers is only one fravtion of human knowledge used for survival . We must learn to master how to use time and energy in proper management how to share , care , give and take from each other without greed and any expectation of reward or favortism ….unless you know how to manage time and energy with your big hat …life will never be kind to you…..this is why many graduates are still looking for jobs today.
    Yes. Living life to its fullest is mpre than the big hat …..The book of knowledge must be your guide always ” THE LIVING BIBLE ” You will never go wrong it is the most powerful book I have ever read.

  6. You pretty much covered it all, resilience, positive attitude, common sense, and making good life choices. Indirectly, you encouraged grads to make a difference in the lives of others, which is so important! Your speech said so much in a short amount of time. I

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