Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

Understanding rhetoric helps speakers deliver a message to the listeners in a practical way by grabbing the audience’s attention and affecting their emotions and rational reasoning. Stanford Commencement address given by Steve Jobs is an excellent example of a motivational speech that has a strong emotional effect on a wide range of audiences. Addressing the fundamental questions of human life with striking honesty and sharing compelling personal stories, Steve Jobs made his inspiring speech resonate with millions of people.

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Steve Jobs gave his famous speech in 2005 in front of a big audience of Stanford graduates. Most of his immediate listeners were young people from successful families who had just gotten a diploma at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. At the same time, the subject of choosing a path for life and following dreams is relevant for all people. The author tailored the speech to be understood by a much more extensive range of listeners, who would watch later. The purpose of the commencement address was to inspire the audience to persuade their true goals and not to be afraid of following their dreams.

Appeal to the personal competence and authority of the presenter is needed to ensure that listeners trust the speaker. In his speech, Steve Jobs emphasizes that the ideas he presents are derived solely from his own experience and the results of his actions (Stanford, 2008). Following the principles allowed Jobs to achieve success in his business and life, despite all the challenges and popsicles in the way. As the achievements of the speaker are not a subject for debate, referring to personal stories makes the message very powerful and persuasive.

Emotions play a central role in how the audience receives a speech. Using rhetoric devices that are aimed at provoking an emotional response of the listeners is essential to win the attention of the audience and create a strong impression (Stucki & Sager, 2018). Steve Jobs managed to create a high emotional impact by discussing the subjects that are personally relevant for all people. The speaker talked about life and death and emphasized the high value of persuading a meaningful life. The speech makes listeners personally identify with the message, which allows it to be more powerful (Heracleous & Klaering, 2017). Jobs also won the sympathy and trust of the audience by sharing personal stories. The speaker talked about the most challenging events of his life, such as his sickness and the time he was fired from Apple (Stanford, 2008). Thus, addressing profound questions with simplicity and honesty, Steve Jobs successfully affected the listeners at the emotional level.

Using logic to appeal to the rational thinking of the audience is necessary to give a persuasive speech. Steve Jobs deliberately structured his commencement address in a simple manner to make the massage clear and transparent. The speaker told three stories, each of which was used to illustrate a moral value and inspire the audience to follow it. The speaker explains that looking back at those events, it becomes apparent that all details sum up and create a broader picture (Stanford, 2008). By showing his reasoning on how persuasion of higher goals allowed him to achieve success and go through difficult times, Jobs convinces the listeners of his ideas.

Thus, the successful use of rhetorical devices makes a public speech more powerful. In his commencement address, Steve Jobs provoke an emotional response in millions of people who saw it, drawing their attention to the most profound questions. This approach allowed the speaker to encourage the audience to overcome fears and move forward. This analysis shows that simple truths that are delivered with honesty can have a great impact on people persuade them to change their lives in a positive way.


Heracleous, L., & Klaering, L. A. (2017). The circle of life: Rhetoric of identification in Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech. Journal of Business Research, 79, 31-40.

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Stanford (2008). Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address [Video file]. Web.

Stucki, I., & Sager, F. (2018). Aristotelian framing: Logos, ethos, pathos, and the use of evidence in policy frames. Policy Sciences, 51(3), 373-385.

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StudyCorgi. "Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Address." June 14, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Address'. 14 June.

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