The Commencement Speech You’d Really Rather Hear

Graduation season is again upon us. The season for speechifying. As a professional speechwriter, I’d like to offer the following text for the featured speaker at whichever graduation you’ve been invited to attend:

“Good morning, graduates, parents and guests. To provide some unexpected relief, I’ll be brief. I’ll simply answer a question many of you have no doubt been pondering: Why is today’s ceremony called a ‘commencement’?

“The answer is simple. Commencement is a fancy word for an everyday concept. Unfortunately, educators often speak and write in fancy language that obscures everyday concepts. ‘Commencement’ is a great example of a familiar concept hidden beneath fancy language.

“A commencement is simply a beginning. And because ceremonies like this one – all across our country – are characterized by speeches that never seem to end, they are all interminable beginnings. That’s why your professors and administrators call today’s event a commencement.

“Now that I’ve answered the question that’s been weighing on your minds, I’m finished. You can think of this brief oration not as a commencement speech but as concluding remarks. The speechifying is over. The wind has ceased to blow.

“Now go out there and begin – commence! – to use the knowledge you’ve gained in this distinguished institution to make a life for yourselves and your families and also, I hope, for the benefit of humankind. I warmly wish you all success in your careers and in life!”

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