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How to Write a Commencement Address

As you may know, the deadline for Trop’s Fake College or High School Class President Commencement Address Contest is this Sunday. And so in these recent weeks, many of you have expressed concerns about the best way to go about composing a truly winsome commencement address. Well, as luck would have it, we have internet access.

How to Write a Commencement Address: Advice taken from and adjusted, slightly, for Trop


1. Decide on a focus. If you are well-known for something specific, your audience will, no doubt, expect your speech to be about that topic. For instance, the president of an oil company should discuss industry best practices in oil extraction, etc. Or, if you’re kind of a slobby guy who yes sometimes sucks toothpaste straight from the tube to get that last little bit when it’s almost all out anyway, so sue me.

2. Put yourself in your audience’s moccasins as you write. These are students, guys. You want to connect. This means you still listen to Sublime, you figure you’ll be making six figures easy by the time you’re thirty, you’d like a hefeweizen please, this apartment is perfect, live life to the fullest, Breast Cancer Awareness, and you’re right about everything even if your grades don’t necessarily reflect that reality.

3. Do not mention any school shootings, no matter how small or inadvertent.

4. Find your voice—perhaps warm and conversational, sober and profound, vigorous and controversial, wise and understanding, honest and pitiful, brokenhearted and sobering up, loud and uninformed, quiet and problematic, hoarse and confused, soaring and boring, mellow and yellow, gin and tonics. Etc etc.

5. Craft an outline with your topic statement and the critical points as headings.

6. Say things girls want to hear. Reaffirm worldviews. Promise to change. Supplicate, supplicate, supplicate.

7. “Punch up” the rough spots with anecdotes, quotes, even relevant jokes to ensure your speech will be unique, interesting, and audience-aware. Remember to pause for the best laugh lines!

8. Be sure to include a joke about how terrible campus food is. Toss novelty vomit onto microphone. (Pause.) Follow up with good diabetes joke to shift speech into more serious realms.

9. Practice reading the speech.

10. Practice again, this time via cell phone, while massively hung over on the bus on the way to work, trying to convince a special young someone who’s light years out of your league to give you another chance, even though in retrospect she’s way too neat and practical and career-driven to have ever gone out with a slob like you in the first place, and so you know that even if you’re somehow successful here short-term, you’re just teeing up another disaster down the road, besides being a tremendous drain on this perfectly normal and reasonable and sweet woman’s time and patience and faith in men. Thing here is you want to anticipate—or “pre-create”—your exact mental state on the day of the speech.

11. Read aloud with any hand motions or movements or tricks or visual effects you intend to incorporate.

12. Create the props you’ll take to the podium—notecards or the full speech, double-spaced and typed. Novelty vomit. T-shirt cannon. Sublime CD. Beer bong. (For further connection.)

13. Almost there! Now try your speech out on a person, especially one similar to the folks in your intended audience. Like in this instance maybe a drunk middle schooler.

14. Relax. Pop a Xanax. Call your mom. “You’ll be fine,” she’ll say.


Read more here: How to Write a Commencement Address |

Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.