The Worst Graduation Speech Clichés

The Worst Graduation Speech Clichés

You've probably heard these before.
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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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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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Severus Snape Is The Worst, And Here's Why

Albus Severus, sweetie, I'm so sorry...

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I grew up being absolutely obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise. I read the books for the first time in second and third grade, then again in middle school, and for the third time in my last year of high school. Recently, I had a somewhat heated argument with a fellow fan of the books about Severus Snape. As I've reread the Harry Potter books, I've noticed that, although J.K. Rowling tried to give him a redemption arc, he only got worse because of it. Here's why I still think Severus Snape is the absolute worst.

His love for Lily Potter was actually really creepy. When I was younger and reading the books, I always found the fact that he held fast in his love for Lily to be very endearing, even noble. However, rereading it after going through a couple of relationships myself, I've come to realize that the way he pined over her was super creepy. It was understandable during his time at Hogwarts; he was bullied, and she was the only one who "understood" him. However, she showed zero interest, and if that didn't clue him into realizing that he should back off, her involvement with James Potter should have. She was married. He was pining after a married, happy woman. If he truly loved her, he would have realized how happy she was and backed off. Instead, he took it out on her orphan son and wallowed in bitterness and self-pity, which is creepy and extremely uncool. When a girl is kind to a boy during high school (or in this case, wizard school), it's not an open invitation for him to pine for her for the literal rest of his life and romanticizes the absolute @#$% out of her. It's just her being a decent person. Move on, Severus.

He verbally abused teenagers. One of the most shocking examples of this is in The Prisoner of Azkaban when Snape literally told Neville Longbottom that he would kill his beloved toad, Trevor if he got his Shrinking Potion wrong, and then punished him when he managed to make the potion correctly. Furthermore, poor Neville's boggart was literally Snape. The amount of emotional torture Neville must have been enduring from Snape to create this type of debilitating fear must have been almost unbearable, and even if Snape was simply trying to be a "tough" professor, there is no excuse for creating an atmosphere of hostility and fear like he did in his potions class for vulnerable students like Neville. In addition, he ruthlessly tormented Harry (the last living piece of Lily Potter, his supposed "true love," btw), and made fun of Hermione Granger's appearance. Sure, he might have had a terrible life. However, it's simply a mark of poor character to take it out on others, especially when the people you take it out on are your vulnerable students who have no power to stand up to you. Grow up.

He willingly joined a terrorist group and helped them perform genocide and reign over the wizarding world with terror tactics for a couple of decades. No explanation needed as to why this is terrible.

Despite the constant romanticization of his character, I will always see the core of Severus Snape, and that core is a bitter, slimy, genocidal, manipulative trash being. J.K. Rowling's attempt to redeem him only threw obsessive and controlling traits into the mix. Snape is the absolute worst, and romanticizing him only removes criticism of an insane man who just so happened to be capable of love (just like the vast majority of the rest of us). Thank you, next.

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