Valedictorian Speech

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Here’s the valedictorian speech I gave May 5, 2007, at my alma mater. At the end of it, the president of the college didn’t even clap. The crowd, however, loved it, and I made the bishop laugh. If you’re thinking about giving a similarly reckless speech, I recommend going for it as long as you’re not too set on that whole “being allowed to graduate” thing.

If I had to describe college in one word, it would be this: oops. You might forget what you learn from reading a book, but you’ll never forget what you learn from sticking your finger in a power outlet. That pretty much summarizes the college experience: it’s quick, it’s shocking, and it makes you smell like burned hot dogs. If you’re not firmly grounded, you’re going to die, and if you’re not smart, you’re going to do it again. Some kids put their finger in a power outlet two or three times before they learn their lesson. Some college students decide to go to graduate school.

Learning from our mistakes is part of growing up. We might not have the maturity or life experience to be adults, but many of us have certainly lost enough hair and gained enough weight to play the part. Every day, we become more and more like our parents, but our parents, too, are changing. Like everything else in this world, they’ll soon grow old and start to smell funny. To deal with them, we’re going to need a little bit of patience and a lot of air fresheners. Stock up accordingly.

Your parents aren’t going to be around forever, so maintain good relations with your other family members, as well. Should things go wrong, they’re your most likely source for an emergency blood transfusion or a spare kidney. Be nice to your friends, too, assuming they have the same blood type as you. If not, make better friends.

A college education isn’t just about exploring your role as a friend and family member. It’s also about civic duty. Know the law. In Indiana, stealing lawn gnomes is a felony, but spousal abuse is only a misdemeanor. That means wives are less valuable than lawn gnomes in the eyes of the state. It also means that if you do steal a lawn gnome, you’ll get a much more lenient sentence if you marry it first. On a related note, never, ever write a valedictorian speech after attending a senior event that features an open bar. Also, don’t steal lawn gnomes.

The world is full of these kinds of complex responsibilities, which is why college instills in us the skills we need to avoid them entirely. There comes a point in every student’s career when he or she realizes that the required reading absolutely, positively needs to be done … sometimes … maybe … assuming there’s nothing good on TV. The same goes for written assignments. There are two great fictions in North America: One is Santa Claus. The other is a term paper that’s worth starting early. With a little planning and a lot of panic, there’s nothing that can’t be overcome through the power of procrastination. I’m convinced a cure for cancer could be developed in an evening if scientists just put it off until the night before it was due.

College trains us how to squeak by in an educational environment, but that’s not the point; the point is learning how to squeak by in the real world. That world is a lot easier to manage if you know nothing about it, so I recommend turning off the news. Major media outlets exist for the sole purpose of hyping the latest Armageddon fad, and there are plenty of them. Yesterday it was the Ebola virus. Today, it’s global warming. Tomorrow, it’ll be squirrels laced with anthrax. I’ve already seen the edition of the paper they’re working on for tomorrow, so you can trust me on that one. At this point, it’s hard to think of anything that’s not going to bring about the end of civilization as we know it. I’m sure somebody out there has a petition right now supposed to fix all of these things, but quite frankly it’s a lot more satisfying to be part of the problem then to be part of the solution. Sometimes it’s fun to be on the winning team. If you need me tomorrow, I’ll be with the anthrax squirrels.

Higher education isn’t just about becoming a better person; it’s also about learning a better way of life. Old inhibitions erode away, and old bad habits are replaced with newer, much more destructive ones. Exercise, but not too often. Drink, but not too much. Swear at inopportune times in front of large crowds of people … just not when the bishop is sitting right behind you … or at least not until after they hand you your diploma. I’ll see you all in twenty minutes. Remember, it doesn’t end today. There are all sorts of other occasions when you’ll have to get dressed up and sit in a hot, uncomfortable room for an unbearably long period of time. Life is all about ending up places you don’t want to be and listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with it. But for right now, the only thing we have to deal with is moving on with our lives. Congratulations to the class of 2007. Let’s graduate.

33 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Wonderful speech – I know you did a great job at delivering it. Congratulations to you and the future Mrs. R & R

  2. eblackford

    Do you have this speech on film? Let me rephrase that. Do you have a copy of the greatest graduation speech in the world on film?

  3. Anonymous

    this is the most fabulous graduation speech in the world. my favorite part is the first paragraph

  4. Great speech, I hope you more or less stuck to it. I feel the same way about school so far. I can’t believe that I am entering my fourth year, I feel like I have merely been struggling to stay afloat.

  5. Good luck– I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t give it to you.

  6. absolutelly loved this speech!!! wow…awesome!

  7. angela

    you are an excellent writer! hilarious speech… would you be willing to help me with mine? it’s a high school speech…

  8. You are a wonderful writer… the speech was extremely well written and very hilarious. Would you be willing to help me with mine? It’s for high school graduation.

  9. The idea of helping high schoolers with the valedictorian speeches actually thrills me on levels I don’t fully understand. However, neither of you left any contact information. My amazing and completely free consulting services will be on hold until I get an e-mail address from either of you.

  10. hey, the last two comments were from me- I just didn’t think the first one had been posted. I want to make my speech funny, yet I want it to have a point. I need help with developing my ideas. Graduation is Tuesday and I need to have it approved tomorrow. please e-mail me at notangela777@yahoo.com as soon as possible! Thank you

  11. Your valedictory address inspired me to craft one of my own that was witty and actually had meaning, as opposed to to the crappy pap that’s all over the internet. About a third of the school’s faculty told either me or my parents that it was the best they’d ever heard, and so I thank you for (unconsciously) passing on some wisdom. If you’d like to, you can read it from http://senduit.com/a3948e. The link expires in a week, because the internet is a vile place. Or maybe it’s just because that’s as long as the website will host it.cheerssimon

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Hey! I LOVED your speech.. I’m so sick of all the serious speeches that the valedictorians give at my high school.. I don’t want to be like them… I want people to actually remember what I said. Could you please help me out? My email is ddumbblonde03@aol.com Thank you!

  14. Katie

    Absolutely hilarious. I wish I could have been there to hear it. It’s definitely inspired mine…which, now that I think about it, I should finish.

  15. Anonymous

    i came across this while searching for tips to write a graduation speech. your speech was wonderful. my university graduation speech is due in 22 hours and i have nothing. i hope you’ve made it far in life becuase your sarcastic honesty is perfect.

  16. This is glorious. You’re my new hero.

  17. addie

    wow this is the best speech EVER!!! fantastic! 😀 i bet everybody was rolling round laughing…even the dean(well inside at least) great job.

  18. andrew

    mind if i adapt parts of this to a high school vale-d speech i gotta give? im sick of all the junk i hear usually from our podium and i was thinkin this might shake things up a bit

  19. Anonymous

    help me please! lol. i need a witty and enticing speech for HS graduation.. and i actually want people to remember it! just like i know people remembered yours!

    tree_baby_girl616@hotmail.com

  20. hey its prolly too late but i was just wondering if you could give me some suggestions for my HS grad speech. your speech was great and i really dont want to give the boring old speeches most people give. im a relatively quiet girl so i just want to shock them all. haha my e-mail address is
    nenna555@yahoo.com

  21. If you’re still up for helping, I could use a few suggestions for my high school v speech…
    rewardsites@gmail.com

  22. Anonymous

    No offence, but i strongly dsagree with the other comments posted here. YOUR SPEECH WAS HORRIBLY UNPROFESSIONAL AND SEEMS AS THOUGH IT COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY AN 8 YEAR OLD!

  23. Anonymous

    That was a fantastically unique speech, and probably one of the more humor saturated collection of words that I have ever encountered! I am very sorry, but I am also going to pester you to send me some ideas to help me with my valedictorian speech. Anything you can send me would be greatly appreciated! My email is:
    king-shmulace@hotmail.com

    thanks very much

  24. Hey, I know you've been hit up a ton…but if you feel like helping another poor highschooler out…
    betsyh@cascadeschools.org

    Also, I've adapted your intro a little to make it more appropriate for living in a cold state. It involves sticking your tongue to a frozen pole…is that okay with you?
    thanks 😀

  25. Lauren

    hey! i know this post is old, but i would love to have some help writing a high school valedictorian speech for this year. any tips you have would be great! i love your style and it definitely would make graduation memorable. thanks xxx

    email: fun2run117@gmail.com

  26. Anonymous

    help me write humour in my valedictorian its for grade six our school doesnt go till grade 8 so we graduate and we have to write a valedictorian for grade 6. if you have any suggestion please help me and e-mail me at tiffanynicolebouchard@hotmail.com it has to be done by friday please i want to make it funny * seriously im not a funny person*

    plz help thank you so much

  27. Ah, I want to marry you.
    I'm giving a High school speech and i've been censored by the board 🙁
    I wish mine could be as rad as yours. I have to talk about dreams and i might even have to define a commonly used word. It's tragic.

    I'd still like your advice on how to write a HS speech, though, if you're up for it.

    email me @ ddevil_shady@hotmail.com ?

  28. Anonymous

    I do not know if you will even read my comment, but this has to be one of the best speeches made. Witty, and sarcastic but at the same time giving some excellent points. I am the valedictorian of a high school graduating class, and I was really wondering whether you would be willing to help me write my speech. My e-mail address is ms_almas873@hotmail.com. Contact me if you find the time. Thank you and again brilliant speech.

  29. SO I know you posted this speech 4 years ago, and I don't even know if you still keep up with the post, but I'm another high schooler that would appreciate some help with writing a valedictorian speech. If you do see this, please email me:

    raiden2_93@yahoo.com

    thanks in advance 🙂

  30. Anonymous

    Hey so I know you wrote this speech about 5 years ago,but I was wondering if you could help me write my speech. i am the salutatorian of my class. Btw, i loved everything you wrote in that speech. it was funny and sarcastic and also truthful at the same time.

    Email me at: clynch53@yahoo.com

  31. It amazes me how many people I let down on this one. I promised that first girl I would help her, but I never did. Then 25 other people followed her example and asked for my assistance. I responded to exactly none of them. Sorry for being a terrible human being. If you seek my advice, I can't promise to help you, but I can promise to feel guilty about ignoring your pleas.

  32. Anonymous I

    As a Valedictorian at the college level, how is it that your speech appears to only have attracted your peers at the high school level? If I am not mistaken in my reading of their comments, they seem to be asking YOU to write THEIR drafts. Why not go further and ask you to come and deliver the addresses as well?

    Who knew high school could compete with college in slackery! Graduate school surely cannot be far behind. I know of too many stories about ghost written thesis and dissertation papers for this NOT to be true. This is encouraging. It pains me to see students working too hard toward achieving nothingness.

  33. Anonymous

    Hello and congrats on your speech. I would love to pick your brain on a couple of items. Please E-mail at xenab365@gmail.com.
    Thank you.