How To Write A Graduation Speech

Or, Go Forth and Set That Sh*t on Fire

Illustration by Max Zhang.

The spring is coming to an end, graduations are supposed to happen (hopefully I get to be a part of one), and this will be my last Sass article as a Georgetown student. Knowing my college life is coming to an end, anything I do kind of needs to be amazing. I can’t graduate with regrets, meaning this article must be hype. It must be my magnum opus, otherwise every single thing I have ever done in my life will have been completely and utterly meaningless. With that pressure in mind, I had to ask myself, “what would a masterpiece entail?” A lasting impact, of course. Then, realizing I would never be able to do that as a novice satire writer, I asked myself, “what things don’t have lasting impact?” Graduation speeches, obviously! They serve no purpose other than an excuse for someone to be vain, annoying, and, oftentimes, boring. Since I wasn’t a nerd in college (or, as my parents would say, focused), I won’t be giving a speech at graduation. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t try and show you all the ropes on how a graduation speech is made.


Thank the people who really don’t need thanking.

First and foremost, before I start, I want to say thank you. Thank you to the wealthy trustees of the university who donated, but could have donated more. Thank you to our school’s president who sometimes does the job he gets paid a lot of money for. And finally, thank you to the professors who taught large lectures and never bothered to learn my name. You were all critical in bringing us to this pivotal moment in our lives...


Bring up the fact that it took you a long time to figure out what to write.

Now when I was told that I would be giving this year’s commencement speech I thought to myself, “What do I have to say to the graduating class?” I thought for a really long time. Like I am talking a day or two of thinking about this…


Start hyper specific and stupidly random.

...Then, last week during my daily equestrian practice, my left stirrup fell off my horse. At the moment I remember feeling angry. I was angry. How could such an annoying thing happen to me? ...Me, a good-looking, generally lucky, privileged individual.


Switch gears completely by poorly playing down your multitude of accomplishments.

I did student council, fencing, debate, was captain of the swim team and advisory council, and led our school’s program board. But somehow that didn’t mean anything for my stirrup. Not even my time as founder and president of the emerging leaders club or my multiple op-ed stories in the New York Times...


Bring up how you don’t know anyone.

Then I thought even more about my accomplishment. Even with all these great things that will probably bring me far in life, I only recently realized that I have no idea who any of you are..


Provide a non-profound take you have on diversity.

By not being able to know any of you, I know nothing about you. When you don’t bother to get to know people, you miss out on learning about them. Each of you experience the world differently than me. We need to celebrate our differences and use them to unite us! So if you take away anything, leave knowing we are different. And that is fine.


Connect back to the hyperspecific.

...So really, losing my stirrup was a mild nuisance and I learned to get back up on that high horse and keep riding. Let that be what I give to the class of 2021. Get on your horse no matter how high and if you fall off, get back up. Thank you.


If you do all this, and maybe even throw in a disingenuous cry that slowly morphs into a real cry, you’ve got yourself a solid graduation speech.


Extra Things to Consider to Spice Up a Speech:

All the things you won’t miss.

“Won’t say I will miss those late nights crying at 3 a.m. in a Lau 2 study room while someone was hooking up in the neighboring room…”


Faculty you wanted to $%&!

“To Professors REDACTED, NICETRY, and NOTTELLING, four seven eight nine three three two eight six one. That’s my number. Call me if you want to see what I really learned in college.”


Screw the speech and freestyle.

“These words are cages to my true expression. Can I get a beat!”


A reference to a celebrity that will probably get canceled and permanently taint your speech.

“As Kermit the frog would say, “‘It’s not easy being green.’”


A break-up with your sweetheart.

“It’s time for us to all go our separate ways for the better. Oh! This would also be a perfect time for me to say, John, we are done. Enjoy the Peace Corps. You weren’t that good for me, anyway.”


Plagiarize*

“It was reaching Niagara Falls that I realized, don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the river and the lakes that you are used to…” Alternatively, “And then my butler Alfred asked me “why do we fall sir?...so we can learn to pick ourselves up..”


*The Indy, its associated entities, and this author do not condone the messaging of this suggestion. The aforementioned cannot be held responsible for the actions of its readers. With that stated, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


And with that, you’ve come to the end of my article. The close to my saga at the Indy. What’s to come next is scary. Wondering if I made the most of my time is scarier. When I look back at my Georgetown experience, something I appreciate is pushing myself to join the Indy and bringing the best content I could. I’ve given all my regrets to yesterday, and you should too.


Magnum Opus? I think so.

Gary Simons is a senior in the College majoring in Psychology, Computer Science, and Film and Media Studies.