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Rhetorical Analysis of Steve Jobs’ Speech


Steve Jobs, the legendary innovator and founder of the Apple Corporation, spoke at Stanford University in 2005, and this was one of the businessman’s landmark speeches. Jobs addressed the graduating class with parting words and used non-standard methods of oratory by drawing on personal experiences and referring to individual perceptions and worries. In this formal setting, he attracted the public’s attention not only with vivid examples and an oratorical manner but also with the content of his speech. Jobs used the most common rhetorical appeals, in particular, logos, ethos, and pathos, and he made a focus on the last of the three mentioned.

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Using Logos

In his speech, Steve Jobs paid little attention to logos as a means of oratorical persuasion. He focused on showcasing his background to graduates and arguing that anyone with natural worries and fears could succeed. At the same time, he utilized numbers to describe specific situations from his past. For instance, while instructing graduates, he stated that “in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees” (’You’ve Got to Find What You Love’). Such mentions were pertinent because the audience felt anxious about an unknown future. The graduated present could be convinced personally that any endeavor had a chance to be profitable and successful. Therefore, even slightly expressed logos was appropriate in this speech due to targeted examples.

Using Pathos

Pathos became the key mode of oratory persuasion, which Steve Jobs used in his speech at Stanford. In an effort to awaken graduates’ emotions, the speaker turned to the exciting topics of life, death, love, and other significant aspects of human existence more than once. Moreover, he used his own problems and experiences as the means of calling to be strong and withstand any adversity. He stated as follows: “about a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer” (’You’ve Got to Find What You Love’). Such a technique may be regarded as an obvious emotional hook that attracts the attention of the audience. All these references to individual problems were effective tools for influencing graduates preparing to enter adulthood. Thus, pathos can be called the basic element of persuasion.

Using Ethos

By the time of his speech, Steve Jobs had already had the status of an outstanding businessman and innovator, and it was natural to establish his credibility through ethos. He inserted the career facts into his speech and referred to the achievements that allowed him to become the world-famous entrepreneur. For instance, he describes Pixar as follows: this “is now the most successful animation studio in the world” (’You’ve Got to Find What You Love’). At the same time, Jobs does not make personal achievements the basis of his speech. He used them as examples to prove to graduates that any project could be recognized and successful if the necessary efforts were put into it. His Macintosh was a vivid example of early success: “I had just turned 30” (’You’ve Got to Find What You Love’). Therefore, using ethos was an effective tool for the given situation and the public.


In his speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs paid particular attention to pathos as a means of rhetorical persuasion, but he also used logos and ethos to influence the audience. Personal experience and individual worries allowed him to influence the public, and the emphasis on significant human values made the performance deeper and, at the same time, non-standard. The ideas of wide opportunities and the importance of making efforts were relevant to the given audience of graduates. The analysis shows that even few accurate data can make a performance credible and memorable, and oratorical pathos is a significant mode of persuasion if used correctly.

Work Cited

“’You’ve Got to Find What You Love,’ Jobs Says.” Stanford, 2005, Web.

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