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Steve Jobs: The Commencement Ceremony Speech

Every day people listen to various speeches. For a speech to be great it should leave a lasting impression on the audience. One speech that I thought did a great job leaving a lasting impression on the audience is the Commencement Ceremony speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University. In his speech at Stanford University back in 2005, Steve Jobs talks about how people should do something they enjoy because it will take up most of their lives, and not settling for anything less will help ensure that you can resolve any obstacle that life throws at you. The speech is exceptionally hopeful, uplifting, and inspirational. In this essay, I will attempt to analyze why and how it succeeds in its goals. The paper will cover the main ideas of the speech, its context, delivery, and its overall message.

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In the speech, Steve Jobs talks at length mainly about a few things: people’s ambitions and curiosity. Giving a personal account from his life, the man tells his audience how he found his purpose in life. Being raised by a family that valued college education highly, Jobs was expected and encouraged to finish high education. Having been young, Jobs could not understand why he needed college, or even what he wanted to do in the future. While expressing his struggle at the time, the man says he decided to drop out. The money his parents were spending to grant him education was not worth it, in Jobs’s eyes. Instead of being obligated to commit to a course, he decided to only study the things he considered interesting. Citing calligraphy as a useless skill that later found its purpose in his life, Jobs emphasizes that people should study the things they are passionate about. His outlook is that the person doing something they enjoy will succeed in life and feel content with their growth.

The second part of his speech is about loss as a driving factor for change and innovation. After being fired from his own company, Steve Jobs thought that he has failed in life and made a serious mistake during his career. This felt like a significant loss for him, as if though he had missed the only opportunity in his life. However, by shifting his perspective, the man saw a situation emerging before him as an opportunity for further development. His passion for work still persisted, and Jobs was able to start anew, with a more informed perspective and admirable goals. In his example, the man shows the importance of dedication and perseverance, the ability to move forward.

The third part of his speech is devoted to the concept of death and its importance in setting priorities. Jobs talks about his experience with setting priorities and the method he uses to decide whether something is worth spending time on. The man asks himself whether he would like to spend the last day of his life doing whatever he is about to do, and if the answer is negative for too long, Jobs makes a decision to change that. His states that death is the greatest motivation and deciding factor for understanding one’s priorities, allowing them to choose the best possible route for their life. He emphasizes that a person’s time alive is ultimately limited, and one should strive to live for their own happiness, without regrets.


One of the reasons Steve Jobs’s speech was as effective as it is lies in its delivery. The speaker has an ability to evoke certain emotions from the audience, and eliciting specific kinds of responses requires specific approaches. Some may choose to present their speech in an official, serious manner, to be able to deliver the information and appear respectable before the listeners. Others, alternatively, might desire to create a friendlier, more open atmosphere with their audience (Defining Emotional Appeal). This can allow for a stronger emotional connection with other people. Creating a balance between the emotional appeal, research and analysis is especially helpful in delivering a good speech (Persuasive Presentations Balance Emotion). Steve Jobs took the second approach, opting to tell the graduates his thoughts in a structured, but informal manner.

His speech is largely informed through personal experience and supplemented by jokes, both of which can help to establish the mood and connect with the listeners (Making It Stick: Tell Stories). Emotional connection plays an important role in this process, allowing the speaker to persuade and engage their audience in terms of attention. In the first part, Jobs talks about his college experience. The feelings of aimlessness and doubt are well-reflected in his wording, which is especially relevant to current college students and graduates. Jobs comes from a place all-to-similar to their origins and understands many of the struggles they are going through. Establishing common ground and justifying his decision to leave college allows the man to support his position and teach the younger generation about the importance of following their dreams.

The second part of the speech, dealing with failure and loss, also connects well with the audience. In many regards, insecurities, mistakes, and regrets are a part of each person’s life, and dealing with them becomes necessary coming into adulthood. This is especially true for his audience, as many of them face a transitional period of their lives, having to take many har, important steps towards personal growth. Having an ability to adapt, innovate, and overcome is crucial to success for such people. Jobs preaches that one should be able to derive lessons from their loss and strive to move forward. He speaks about letting one’s love for the profession guide them, not being dissuaded by lost opportunities. His lesson is once again effective in connecting with the audience due to the universality of the issue discussed and brings up the important considerations for one’s life.

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In the last part, Jobs also speaks about largely universal concepts. His relationship with death is complicated, serving as the ultimate deciding factor, a source for motivation, and the last reminder of his own fragility. Steve Jobs talks to his personal experiences with death, and how cancer has impacted the outlook he has on life. Tragic events with strong sentiments have the ability to grip people and make them invested, which plays into Job’s favor. The illness he survived also gives the man more credibility on speaking of its usage as a guiding philosophy. Generally, the concept of inevitable death is something each person has to face, and having the ability to derive meaning and benefit from it is one of the ways of coping with that fact. Steve Jobs manages to address the anxieties of his public and teach them a valuable lesson on setting priorities.


In conclusion, Steve Job’s speech can be divided into three main parts: finding one’s purpose, dealing with failure, and finding meaning in the inevitable. He teaches the audience to follow their dreams, setting priority on the things that are most interesting to them, and then building their career around that. His approach is designed to ensure the maximum amount of happiness for an individual. Dealing with loss in his eyes is a necessary part of personal growth, and allows individuals to discover paths to innovation and development. His outlook is largely positive, focusing on the opportunities, rather than regrets and self-doubt. The last segment of his speech deals with death. The story details a useful method for understanding one’s life and re-evaluating its course. By looking at life through the lens of its end, Jobs hopes to filter out all of the unnecessary parts of living that make him unhappy. This approach gives a person an ability to ot grow and develop in their own self-interest, instead of serving others. The man uses his own success, failure, and life experience as a springboard to deliver the most important aspects of his personal philosophy. An appeal to both experience and emotion works well to establish a strong connection with the audience (Use Different Kinds of Appeals: Public Speaking/Speech Communication). His relatable choice of topics and delivery make the speech especially effective in communicating its message.

Works Cited

Defining Emotional Appeal. Web.

Use Different Kinds of Appeals: Public Speaking/Speech Communication, Web.

“Persuasive Presentations Balance Emotion.” Duarte, Web.

Making It Stick: Tell Stories.” Manner of Speaking, Web.

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