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Choosing a Theme and Other Tips to Write a Valedictorian Speech

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/9/2012

If you have worked hard and earned the title of valedictorian of your class, then you most likely have the honor of speaking at your graduation. Write an honest speech and present a positive outlook for the future to inspire your classmates at the celebration.

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    Decide on a Theme

    Writing your valedictorian speech starts with creating a theme or main message for your speech. What do you want to portray to your classmates? Some common themes for graduation speeches are:

    • Past, present, future: describe how your classmates have gone from kindergarten up to 12th grade together, and now, you are looking toward the future; or for college graduations, you can describe freshman week to senior year to careers.
    • What your education has done for you and your classmates.
    • How you are going to fit into the world with this degree.
    • Hard work and perseverance paid off for your education, and they will pay off in your future.
    • Memories from school will keep you grounded as you go out into the world and start a new life.
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    Be Thankful

    Most speeches generally starts with a thank you section. You want to thank the hosts of the graduation and the people responsible for giving you the opportunity to speak. For example, a high school speech giver might thank the school board members, the superintendent, the principal and the student body before beginning the speech.

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    Get Your Audience's Attention

    When creating your valedictorian speech, the next thing you need to do is decide how you want to begin your speech. You can start with a/an:

    • anecdote
    • inspirational quote
    • question
    • fact

    One of the most popular ways to start a speech that really grabs the audience's attention is to use an anecdote. An anecdote is a true story that fits with the theme of your speech. You could tell a story from your own life, from a famous person's life, from your parents' lives or from a classmate's life. As long as it is inspirational and says something about the future or about a positive outlook on life, you can use the story. Many speech writers will start with a story from an essay in a book series like Chicken Soup for the Soul or Cup of Comfort.

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    The Body of the Speech

    Depending on the theme you choose when writing your valedictorian speech, you will create an outline that has a beginning, middle and end – just like if you were writing an essay. In the body of the speech, you may include stories, quotes, memories, facts and even current events. The important thing is to keep in mind what your theme or message is, and everything in your speech should fit that theme. For example, if you are doing a past, present and future speech, then you would have three parts to the speech, and each would highlight that time with stories, quotes or facts. The body of your speech is the longest part and could vary anywhere from five minutes to 15 minutes, depending on your school's requirements and guidelines.

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    In Conclusion

    When writing your conclusion, remember this is the last message you will leave with them. So, it should summarize our overall message, be inspirational, or possibly have a call for action. For example, if your theme is how you and your classmates are going to fit into the world, you could finish the speech with a prediction – what do you see some of your classmates doing in the future? If you can find a quote by a famous person, that's another good way to end a speech.

    Giving a valedictorian speech at graduation is a privilege, so speak from your heart and deliver an honest message.

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    Resources

    Valedictorian Speeches, http://www.stfranciscollege.edu/about/ValedictorianSpeeches