Speech Ideas for High School Graduation

There are generally three types of high school graduation speakers, salutatorian, valedictorian and guest speaker. Typically, the salutatorian is the student with the second best academic record and the valedictorian earned top academic honors. The guest speaker, often a long-ago graduate of the school, may be a well-known local figure in education, business, politics or clergy.

There are many potential subjects the speakers can choose, with the basic theme to emphasize the importance of that special moment in the lives of the graduates. The speeches always end with the speaker’s wishes to the young people for a successful future.

If the economy is in bad shape, the students are already aware of what they face when looking for jobs. They don’t need to be lectured about it on one of the happiest days of their lives. Ideas for the subject matter of the speeches can vary greatly, as long as they’re positive and timely. 

1. Inspirational people and stories: Great lives can create meaningful speech subjects. For examples, General Robert E. Lee fought for what he believed was right, although his cause was a lost one. President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t let the paralysis of his legs prevent him from becoming one of the greatest Presidents.

Mahatma Ghandi gave up a prosperous law career to become a self-sacrificing symbol of freedom in India. Rising from poverty and discrimination, Oprah Winfrey achieved major entertainment stardom and acclaim as a humanitarian.

When you use famous individuals as the subject of your speech, include quotes that emphasize your theme. For example, you could expand on this from Roosevelt: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

2. What’s happening now: The typical graduation speech includes the theme of challenge. It tells the young people to expect their lives ahead to have difficulties and hard work, but they’ll succeed because of what they’ve learned at school. Timely references to the economy, politics, international troubles and the environment are appropriate for emphasizing the challenges ahead.

Historic references the speaker may cite indicate that today’s challenges are not new, and have been faced by graduates in previous generations. For example, another Roosevelt quote emphasizes that point. More than 70 years ago, he said, “Over ninety percent of all national deficits from 1921 to 1939 were caused by payments for past, present, and future wars.”

3. Gratitude and determination: High school commencement speakers, particularly the two honor students, may opt to use their time at the podium for reflection and appreciation. They may express how deeply they feel about their school, fellow classmates, faculty members, parents, patriotism and other positive subjects.

That being said, the speakers may conclude by expressing determination to utilize the adult inspiration and support after graduation. High school commencement speeches should serve to be the final pleasant memory for the students to treasure through the years to follow.