The Worst Graduation Speech Clichés

The Worst Graduation Speech Clichés

You've probably heard these before.

There exists within me a great contradiction: I hate graduation speeches yet have also always wanted to give them.

Year after year, I have sat in the audience, mentally correcting lines, straightening up metaphors, and complaining to the person beside me about the cissexism and sexism that seems to inevitably creep into every speech spoken to graduates of a women-centered college.

Many say that the answer to my contradiction, to my endless complaints is obvious; I should write a speech myself. Thankfully, Odyssey gives me a space to offer my voice to the community, without having to be specifically selected by a board of presumably very qualified professors with darts and a list of student names.

Instead of doing something constructive and boring like writing a speech, I will be giving readers the opportunity of a lifetime: a written simulation of what it is like to sit beside me during a particularly awful speech.

It’s time to take down the most common cliches in graduation speeches.

1. Generalizing

Every graduation speech relies on the myth of the common past. Personal accounts and anecdotes are left by the wayside in favor of quick lists of callbacks that could be replaced on a school by school basis.

This part of the speech often reads like this: Go our team! Remember that time we all had that one teacher that only some of us had; he rocks! Remember Gary the Janitor — oh that Gary!

It may seem counter-intuitive, but more detailed specific stories with a personal touch make for more memorable speeches than a list of food served at the cafeteria, significant social and political events that occurred during the year, or assuming all students had the same experience as the writer did.

2. Metaphors and/or Reading Poetry

Nothing kills a speech faster than a long, drawn out and somewhat incoherent metaphor. It’s nice that you think that the worn out stairs represent students “making their mark on the school,” but what does that really mean? Did the students who were not able to go up those stairs because of disabilities not matter? Did the students who did not have classes in that building not matter? What does it mean to say that pounding something into marble through repetitive actions in a crowd mean? Is individuality important in this metaphor? Why can’t stairs just be stairs?

It’s difficult to pay attention to a speech where the metaphor goes on for the duration of hundreds of years while offering no sense of payoff. Reading a poem with extended metaphors is an even worse decision. As great as poetry is, reading a poem in general is a bad idea. The only exception to this rule would be one heck of a slam poem, though.

Please do not get in front of a group of people and read Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken;” it will only make them wish they had taken the road that led them to not hearing this speech.

3. The Starfish Story

Now presenting The Starfish Story: A Film by Hallmark and Lifetime, coming just in time for graduation. A person, supposedly the speaker or a friend of a friend of a friend of the speaker’s, finds a small child on the beach. The little hellion is chucking starfish into the ocean. The speaker, rather than making the child leave the poor starfish alone, asks what difference the kid thinks they are making. They can only throw a few starfish back into the ocean in small numbers. It’s futile, young one, the speaker sighs. This is when the child puts one last starfish in their filthy little grabby claws (also known as hands) and tosses the creature probably only a few feet forward. Despite the fact that children cannot throw very far, the child is smug, declaring, “I made a difference for that one.”

There is nothing in the world that I hate more than hearing the starfish story on a day so hot my behind is melting into the plasticy-wood of my chair. Instead of being all cool in the ocean like that starfish, I am listening to a story that my grandmother has sent to me in email form with watermarked clipart at least four separate times.

4. No Jokes Allowed

Graduation speeches are centered around the idea of being as genuine and sentimental as possible in the fakest way imaginable. This means that there are very few funny moments in speeches.

Most laughs elicited from the crowd are either for callback-centric jokes or to fill the awkward silence when the microphone starts crackling.

There is this idea that humor and sentimentality cannot mingle, which is bizarre as most comedy media balances both elements equally. Please make a joke, everyone is hot and tired and really scared about where their life is going and they could use a good laugh.
Cover Image Credit: High School Musical 3

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.

Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?


Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

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